The banana we know and love today actually suck when compared to the one our grandparents ate. That cultivar, called the Gros Michel, was bigger and tastier but alas it was hit by a blight called the Panama disease and went extinct by 1960.
Now, the banana we all eat, a variety called the Cavendish, may face the same fate: Panama disease, caused by the fungus Fusarium, is back and spreading fast!
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. Even worse, the malady has the potential to spread to dozens of other banana varieties, including African bananas, the primary source of nutrition for millions of people.
Panama disease is so virulent that a single clump of dirt tracked in on a tire tread or a shoe can spark a country-wide outbreak.
Previously on Neatorama: We're Bananas About Bananas!