Can Anything Stop the Bananapocalypse?

How It Works
Dec. 20 2013 3:03 PM

World's Top Banana Under Threat

183700999
If Cavendish bananas go extinct, it'll be bananas.

Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

A new article in Nature brings the alarming news that the fungus threatening the global banana supply—or at least what most Americans think of as bananas—is spreading to more counties:

A variant of a fungus that rots and kills the main variety of export banana has been found in plantations in Mozambique and Jordan, raising fears that it could spread to major producers and decimate supplies. The pathogen, which was until now limited to parts of Asia and a region of Australia, has a particularly devastating effect on the popular Cavendish cultivar, which accounts for almost all of the multibillion-dollar banana export trade. Expansion of the disease worldwide could be disastrous, say researchers.
Advertisement

The fungus has now been found in Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, China, and Australia, and it seems likely that it will soon spread to Latin America, producer of 80 percent of the world’s bananas.  

Producers in some countries are experimenting with genetic modifications to protect Cavendishes from the fungus, but if the fungus jumps the Atlantic, it could devastate supplies pretty quickly, researchers say.

The fungus is particularly devastating to Cavendish bananas, the big yellow ones best known to U.S. consumers, though these account for only about 13 percent of bananas and plaintains produced annually. A previous strain on the fungus completely wiped out the Gros Michel variety, which was the most popular type of banana around the world until the 1950s.

So the bananapocalypse may not actually be nigh, but it could be time to start getting used to manzanos and burros.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

Even by Russian Standards, Moscow’s Anti-War March Was Surprisingly Grim

I Wrote a Novel Envisioning a Nigerian Space Program. Then I Learned Nigeria Actually Has One.

The Best Thing About the People’s Climate March in NYC

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

Trending News Channel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 22 2014 12:30 PM Turkey Just Got Forty-Six Hostages Back From ISIS. How Did That Happen?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 12:44 PM The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy
  Life
The Shortcut
Sept. 22 2014 12:31 PM Down With Loose Laces A simple trick to tighten your running shoes for good.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM Escaping the Extreme Christian Fundamentalism of "Quiverfull"
  Slate Plus
Science
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 12:22 PM The Age of the Streaming TV Auteur
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 11:23 AM Two Impacts, One Landslide … on Mercury
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.