Fungus Threatens Most Common Banana

If it spreads to Latin America, the Cavendish might be doomed

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 12, 2013 3:25 PM CST

(Newser) – Banana fans, meet your enemy: Fusarium oxysporum f. sp.cubense, but you can call it Foc for short. It's a banana-killing fungus present in Asia and Australia and more recently in Mozambique and Jordan. If it spreads to Latin America—which accounts for about 80% of banana exports—supermarket bananas are in serious trouble, reports Nature. That's because a strain of Foc is wiping out the common Cavendish banana, which, "if you’re an American under the age of 50, are likely the only bananas you’ve ever eaten," observes Grist.

Sound alarmist? Consider that a different strain of Foc decimated the Cavendish predecessor, Gros Michel, in the 1950s. "I’m incredibly concerned,” says a researcher in the Netherlands. “I will not be surprised if it pops up in Latin America in the near future.” But the Nature report ends on a hopeful note: An Australian researcher thinks it's possible to revive the Gros Michel banana and make it resistant to Foc. “It’s such a superior banana to Cavendish," he says. "To bring it back would be wonderful.”

A fungus threatens supermarkets' supply of bananas.
A fungus threatens supermarkets' supply of bananas.   (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)
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