The banana is one of my favorite fruits. It’s familiar, easy to eat, and tasty. You know exactly what you’re getting into when you peel a banana and bite into it because bananas don’t have much variety to them. It turns out that the lack of variety to the everyday banana may be the death of them.
If you’re younger than about fifty, you might know only one kind of banana, the kind we see in grocery stores and markets today. That one’s called the Cavendish banana, and it’s the quintessential example of the banana we know and love. Your parents or grandparents may remember those other bananas from their youth, the Gros Michel banana, which was the banana until the early 1960s when Panama disease wiped out many of the Gros Michel plants.
That can’t affect today’s bananas, right? Wrong. It’s already happening. It’s a similar strain of the same disease, which isn’t easily controlled. Remember that part about bananas being alike? That’s true genetically as well. These bananas haven’t evolved enough to fight the disease, making them especially susceptible. How much time we have before bananas become harder to find or before the disease spreads to the Western Hemisphere is unknown, but given the global economy it’ll happen unless a cure is found for Panama disease. The real question is what next for the banana industry. Will the banana scientists (yes, those exist) create a genetically modified banana, or will an entirely different banana be chosen as the banana? Time will tell, but the Banana Pudding Man I knew as a kid will roll in his grave if bananas cease to exist in the grocery store.