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Endangered Banana


Did you know bananas might soon slip into history?

That's because from Paris to Peoria, we all eat only one variety, and it's vulnerable to a fungus that seems impossible to safely control.

Bananas are an unusual fruit. They are, in fact, sterile mutants unchanged since the Stone Age. In the wild, bananas are giant herbs. They once contained hard seeds that made their fruit inedible. But long ago a genetic fluke prevented those seeds from developing, and bananas began producing only soft, seedless insides.

Today, our table bananas are descendents genetic clones in fact -- of those mutant bananasaurs. These days, because bananas don't produce seeds, growers rely on cuttings. And for marketing uniformity, everyone grows the Cavendish variety. If you eat a yellow banana today, it is a Cavendish.

But that uniformity also makes it easy prey for disease, since each cutting is genetically identical to the next, with the same strengths and weaknesses.

A soil fungus deadly to this Top Banana threatens plantations worldwide, kept at bay only by fungicides that may be harmful to humans. What to do? Check for organically grown bananas, or those certified by the Rainforest Alliance.

Script by Bob Rhein

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