In the late 1980s, a new strain of an old disease devastated banana crops in Taiwan, killing more than 70% of the nation’s plantations. In the years since then, this blight has spread to China, Southeast Asia, and Australia, decimating crops and rendering soil unusable for the foreseeable future. Last year, The New Yorker published a feature on the plight of Australian banana farmers, whose plantations were most recently wiped out.
Coupons.org has produced an infographic which details the impending disaster that threatens
to destroy the rest of the world’s major banana crops. “Banana Apocalypse” covers the history of the
disease, called Tropical Race Four, and shows how 99% of the world’s banana market is at risk.
While there are over 1,000 types of bananas in existence, a specially-designed $6 billion dollar
infrastructure has been created around growing, shipping, and selling one type of banana, the Cavendish.
The eventuality of the demise of the Cavendish is precipitated by the fact that they are all derived from
the same stalk, whereby a cutting of an existing plant is re-planted elsewhere, allowing new trees to grow,
making them all genetically identical.
The Cavendish has thrived because it was unsusceptible to previous banana blights that wiped out the
former market dominator, the Gros Michel, by the mid-1960s, but this new strain seems to target only the
genetically identical Cavendish.
While Tropical Race Four has not spread to Latin and South America yet, where most of America’s
bananas come from, the graphic warns that “scientists agree it is not a matter of if, but when, the
Cavendish will no longer exist.”
This means it might be a good idea to start looking for different bananas in the produce aisle sooner,
rather than later.
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