Are Reports of the Banana’s Extinction Greatly Exaggerated?

The banana, as we know it, is not the banana that our grandparents knew and enjoyed. And this contemporary banana is in danger of extinction due to a new strain of Panama disease. Or so says The Scientist, which appears to be parroting alarmist reports debunked by Snopes a few years ago. The Vietnamese Cavendish banana is the one commonly exported to the United States. But it is, by no means, the only banana cultivar out there. What this may mean is that the Cavendish banana, a less lusher fruit than the Gros Michael banana decimated in the 1950s, will be replaced by an even more derivative and genetically mutated banana. Unless some pesticide is introduced which is able to decimate this latest Panama strain. The biggest regret amidst this hysteria is that there isn’t a single cultural figure who comes even close to Carmen Miranda who can put all this into perspective.


  1. The Snopes write up isn’t one of their best. True, there are hundreds of other cultivars but the wild cultivars are being lost due to the loss of forests so genetic diversity is being reduced in the wild too. Also most cultivars are not very tasty (think plaintains), have woody seeds, or are difficult to ship. There’s one variety that is blue and has the taste of vanilla icecream but cannot be shipped as it ripens within days and rots equally quickly and bruises too easily for transport.

    When most of the articles predicting the demise of the banana were written, there were no suitable alternatives and the banana companies were test marketing red bananas as a replacement, needless to say the public did not embrace the red bananas and there were problems in shipping them to market before they rotted or got damaged.

    However, recently a successful cross between the Gros Michel and a Brazilian Apple Banana was achieved called “Golden Fingers” (FHIA-1) which had the taste of apples. The “Golden Finger” was test marketed but the tart taste was seen as out of place by most consumers but it became the leading candidate to replace the Cavendish. Since then there have been many crosses, many of which were only suitable as cooking bananas (plaintains) but this has culminated with the Kabana-4 (FHIA-23) which has the appearance of a Gros Michel but the taste of a Cavendish and similar shipping requirements as the Cavendish.

    Many nurseries have been misrepresenting this cultivar as the Gros Michel resulting in many gardeners believing that the Gros Michel tastes no different then the Cavendish. So we will have a grocery store banana that is similar enough to what we have now that the change will go unnoticed by most of the public so the crisis is over for now but the genetic diversity of the bana continues to shrink with the ongoing deforestation througout the world.

    The Snopes article is technically true but it does the industry a disservice to label the extinction as false. The extinction is happening, and at one point we did not have good commercial options but now we have the commercial options and will live to see another day or rather decade while our ability to address such problems are dissappearing with the forests.

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