If you've ever enjoyed a nice banana smoothie or some holiday banana pudding — and who hasn't?—you might want to sit down for this: the Washington Post reports that our beloved bananas could soon go extinct.
The culprit is a fungus called Panama Disease, which hoped from Australia to Central and South America over 120 years ago and caused the most popular type of banana of the day — a "sweet, creamy variety called Gros Michel" — to become virtually extinct in just a few decades. Panama Disease is apparently back in a "more potent mutation," according to a troubling new study published in PLOS Pathogens, and, the Post reports the disease is already going to town on the top-selling banana in the world today:
Now, half a century later, a new strain of the disease is threatening the existence of the Cavendish, the banana that replaced the Gros Michel as the world's top banana export, representing 99 percent of the market, along with a number of banana varieties produced and eaten locally around the world.
And there is no known way to stop it—or even contain it.
Things are not looking good for our old pal the banana. Think the current form of Panama Disease as if it were the amped-up version of the Spanish flu that killed millions around the world between 1918 and 1919. Research has shown it was an invigorated form of the swine flu that human immune systems weren't equipped to handle. Tropical Race 4, the souped-up Panama Disease, has been wreaking havoc on banana crops everywhere they're grown outside of Latin America because the bananas have no resistance to it. Researchers cited by the Post believe it's just a matter of time before it makes its way Latin America, and it will be awful when it does, because that's "the mothership of global banana production."
In a humorous twist, the paper also noted that the original banana blight, which took out the first widely-sold breed of fruit, inspired the composition of the novelty song, "Yes, We Have No Bananas." When the new blight comes, that song will have a grim new meaning once again.
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