Don't go bananas: your favorite fruit might be going extinct

Are Bananas Going Extinct?
Are Bananas Going Extinct?

"Most people don't know anything about bananas," says Dan Koeppel, author of Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World. If you beg to differ, think twice.

Did you know that the banana that we eat is actually only one of about a thousand different banana breeds? Because as it turns out, the banana that we have all come to love and enjoy was not the banana consumed by our ancestors.

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In fact, that banana breed has been long gone and extinct for over 50 years, due to what Koeppel calls "industry stupidity" and "neglect" (poor little neglected 'nanas).

Here's the skinny (or starchy, if you will) on what happened:

Until around 1875, bananas were essentially unheard of in countries without the proper climate for banana growing (a.k.a The U.S.). Then a company called United Fruit came into the picture with a revolutionary idea: sell bananas around the world for half the price of apples (which are virtually everywhere), dominate fruit sales in the United States, make a ton of money, everyone wins. And thus began the start of the American banana industry.

By 1900, banana sales were dominating, far surpassing the sales of apples. But a decade later, as life often goes, something went awry. The banana plant was infected by a terrible fungus called Panama Disease.

For the next 50 years, banana farmers played a fun game of hide-and-seek in which they continued to move the banana crop around different countries and continents until the disease caught up with the plant, and then moved it again. Over and over.

As you can probably guess, eventually the inevitable occurred. In 1960, the plant said its final farewell and was officially pronounced functionally extinct (meaning that it could not be grown commercially).

But then, a miracle happened--the underdog rose.

The Cavendish breed of banana (the one you and I know and love) was brought up from the ranks. People called it a "bad banana", said that it wasn't "tough enough" and that it "didn't ripen properly." But with a little hard work and adaptation, the Cavendish grew to become the banana we know today. It's okay to get emotional.

We wish this story had a happy ending, but unfortunately it does not. In a classic case of history repeating itself, a new strain of Panama Disease has surfaced and has been affecting Cavendish crops for the past 10 years. And today, things aren't looking so good for our dear, banana friends.

Why is this so tragic? Koeppel makes it pretty clear:
"When bananas get sick, people die."

So what on earth can we do? Watch the video above to find out.

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