LIFESTYLE

Banana Drama: Fruit Faces Extinction After Deadly Disease Threatens To Wipe Out Crops Worldwide

02/12/2015 11:40 GMT | Updated 02/12/2015 11:59 GMT

In what is probably the saddest food-related news we've heard this year, bananas could soon face extinction.

And yes, we'd consider that as far worse than the global Prosecco shortage.

A deadly disease killing off Cavendish banana plants in East and Southeast Asia has now spread to other continents including the Middle East, Africa and Australia.

Granted the Panama disease has been destroying banana plants since the Sixties, but it's now well on its way to wiping out the tasty yellow fruit altogether.

Experts predict it's only a matter of time before the banana-killing disease jumps to Latin America, where more than 60% of the planet's exported bananas are grown.

bananas

In a study published in the journal PLOS Pathogens, scientists analysed the genetic makeup of Panama disease and confirmed that the problem is a single clone of the disease called 'Tropical Race 4'.

Panama disease is a fungus which attacks the roots of banana plants and causes the leaves to become yellow and wilt.

There is currently no way to control or cure the disease, other than by using soil treatments - however these have a detrimental effect on the environment and, a as a result, are prohibited in most countries.

Gert Kema, banana expert at Wageningen University and Research Centre, told Quartz: "We know that the origin of [Tropical Race 4] is in Indonesia and that it spread from there, most likely first into Taiwan and then into China and the rest of Southeast Asia.

"The deadly fungus has now leapt to Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan, Oman, and Mozambique, and Australia’s northeast Queensland."

Of course, the day bananas no longer grace our fruit bowls will be a very sad day indeed. But it would be even more devastating for the towns and villages who rely on the crops for income.

"Bananas are an important cash-crop for millions of people, enabling them to send children to school and support their families," reads the Panama disease information website.

"Panama disease therefore threatens to cause widespread poverty."

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