Get ready for the banana pandemic to destroy your favorite fruit

A highly-contagious form of fungus sometimes called Panama disease has devastated crops in Asia, and has now been found in Mozambique. It sounds like a joke, but this pandemic is deadly serious and could affect the world's fruit supply.


Earlier this month, the scientific journal Nature published an article about Mozambique's efforts to contain the blight pandemic by quarantining fields where it has been found, hoping that it won't spread. The country needs more funds to prevent the spread of Panama disease. Unchecked, this banana pandemic could potentially cut off the global supply of one of the world's most popular fruits, a healthy source of minerals that's used in many cuisines.

There have been previous banana pandemics from a similar kind of fungus, and those diseases were only stopped when farmers turned to a new strain of banana that was not vulnerable to the fungus. Now, unfortunately, the fungus has mutated enough to that it can affect these new bananas. Even more unfortunately, this banana strain is used all over the world, which makes it easy for Panama to spread.


This is another example of how food webs can collapse under strained environmental conditions.

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Dr Emilio Lizardo

The problem is that bananas are not genetically diverse. I believe that all of them are the exact same strain so any disease that one plant is not resistant too, all plants are not resistant to. The same problem was the cause of previous banana blights and was the inspiration for the song "yes we have no bananas." I find it fascinating that the banana you eat today is very different than the banana people ate a century ago, but identical to the banana everybody else eats all around the world.