Bananas and many staple crops may be doomed to disease if we cannot biodiversify

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[Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the book “Never Out of Season: How Having the Food We Want When We Want It Threatens Our Food Supply and Our Future” by Rob Dunn.]

Cavendish bananas are all genetically identical. Each banana you buy in the store is the clone of the one next to it. Every banana plant being grown for export is really part of the same plant, a collective organism larger than any other on earth, far bigger than the clonal groves of aspens.

This giant organism is now at risk of exactly the same sort of population crash that befell … Gros Michel [bananas], and a new strain of Fusarium, a close relative of the pathogen that causes Panama disease, has evolved. It can kill both Gros Michel and Cavendish bananas.

The risk to our crops comes in direct proportion to the ways in which we have simplified agriculture. Nearly every crop in the world has undergone a very similar history—domesticated in one region, then moved to another region, where it could escape its pests and pathogens. But these pests and pathogens, in our global world of airplane flights and boat trips, are catching up. Once they do catch up, there are only very few ways to save our crops, and all of them depend on biodiversity, whether in the wild or among traditional crop varieties.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Humans made the banana perfect — but soon, it’ll be gone

For more background on the Genetic Literacy Project, read GLP on Wikipedia