May 30, 2008

Enjoy Those Bananas While You Can

The ones that many of us ate as children are not the ones we are eating now.

The ones we are eating now may disappear soon:

Introduced to our hemisphere in the late 19th century, the Gros Michel was almost immediately hit by a blight that wiped it out by 1960. The Cavendish was adopted at the last minute by the big banana companies - Chiquita and Dole - because it was resistant to that blight, a fungus known as Panama disease. For the past fifty years, all has been quiet in the banana world. Until now.

Panama disease - or Fusarium wilt of banana - is back, and the Cavendish does not appear to be safe from this new strain, which appeared two decades ago in Malaysia, spread slowly at first, but is now moving at a geometrically quicker pace. There is no cure, and nearly every banana scientist says that though Panama disease has yet to hit the banana crops of Latin America, which feed our hemisphere, the question is not if this will happen, but when.

This is not just a minor problem for US breakfast and lunch menus. Consider Uganda: according to this article bananas account for up to 80% of the local diet.

Part of the answer may be genetically modified bananas. Would you eat them?

Also, should you be reconsidering your Chiquita investments?

Posted by Steve on May 30, 2008
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