If TR4 is not contained, it has the capability to wipe out most large banana farms which mostly grow one type of banana: the Cavendish. This common banana is being threatened by a deadly disease. The Cavendish banana has proved popular among producers and exporters for its high yields and durability over long transportation. And even then, it might not taste exactly like fruit we know today. The world’s bananas are under attack . After years of attempting to keep it out of the Americas, in mid-2019, Panama disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4), was discovered on banana … Genetic engineering can lead to the development of new varieties at much faster rates than traditional breeding methods, but it can also turn consumers off. The parallel was noticed as early as the late 1990s. According to the BBC, the Cavendish accounts for nearly half of bananas grown worldwide and nearly all of the bananas imported to the U.S., Europe and the U.K. According to Gert Kema, a professor of tropical phytopathology at Wageningen University whose lab leads research about the Panama disease, this is not the first time banana growers have been faced with a dire situation. And while even the most Cavendish-like of FHIA’s disease-resistant varieties, a banana known as the FHIA-18, hasn’t yet met the standards of multinational buyers, that may change, according to Adolfo Martinez, director general of FHIA. Plants of one variety are genetic clones of the parent plant. It was widely considered tastier than the Cavendish, and more difficult to bruise. The damage wrought by the disease has already cost those nations $400 million to date — and that was before it reached the world's biggest banana-growing region. But the banana as we know it may also be on the verge of extinction. But in the 1950s, the crop was swept by a strain of Panama disease, also known as banana wilt, brought on by the spread of a noxious, soil-inhabiting fungus. Panama disease, also called banana wilt, a devastating disease of bananas caused by the soil-inhabiting fungus species Fusarium oxysporum forma specialis cubense.A form of fusarium wilt, Panama disease is widespread throughout the tropics and can be found wherever susceptible banana cultivars are grown. PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images. On the other hand, as banana farmers learned, in a monoculture, all instances are prone to the same set of attacks. Back then, the most popular type of banana was the Gros Michel, so to combat the risk of infection to that type of banana, large growers like Chiquita and Dole switched to the Cavendish which, at the time, was immune to that strain of the disease. “The story of the banana is really the story of modern agriculture exemplified in a single fruit,” says Daniel Bebber, who leads the BananEx research group at the University of Exeter. Follow her work on Contently. According to National Geographic, "A banana with those characteristics, a taste and appearance similar to the beloved Cavendish, and resistance to TR4 does not exist.". Despite the availability of a tasty replacement, the disease still wiped out nearly all crop grown on Central and South American banana plantations and caused $2.3 billion in damage. Vote Now, U.S. May See 'Surge Upon Surge' of COVID-19, You can unsubscribe at any time. A potential savior, say researchers, would be to create a different type of banana through selective breeding that is a different species than the Cavendish. So, what’s next for the banana? The situation led Colombia—where the economy relies heavily on the crop, as it does in several other countries including Ecuador, Costa Rica and Guatemala—to declare a national state of emergency in August. And with transportation, it’s more effective to have several different options—when a train line is shut down, if you have other choices at your disposal, like a car or another form of transit, you won’t be stuck.”. There are any number of ways the problem can spread. For example, the 1988 Morris Worm infected an estimated 10% of all computers connected to the Internet within just 24 hours, and, more recently, the 2016 Mirai Botnet, which allowed an outside party to remotely control a network of internet-connected devices, brought down Twitter, Netflix, CNN and more. Frank Bienewald—LightRocket via Getty Images, A Colombian worker carries crude bananas to a transport car at a banana plantation. Monoculture has its benefits. “A lot of people would agree that we need to move to a more diverse, more sustainable system for bananas and agriculture in general,” says Bebber, “where we don’t put all our hope into a single, genetically identical crop.”. The entire system is standard, so there’s rarely new production and maintenance processes, and everything is compatible and familiar to users.