Originally published November 25 2011
Industrial monoculture leading to the extinction of bananas
by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
(NaturalNews) When too much of the same crop is grown in the same fields year after year, soils become depleted of vital nutrients and healthy bacteria, which allows for diseases to easily thrive and spread. And the global supply of bananas -- at least the kind sold in most major grocery stores -- could become a thing of the past thanks to a deadly, monoculture-induced banana disease that has already wiped out banana crops across Southeast Asia.
It is called Race IV fungus, or "the HIV of banana plantations," and it thrives in monoculture soils like the ones that grow Cavendish bananas, the type most commonly grown and sold internationally. Though there are thousands of other varieties of bananas in existence, many of which have a much better flavor and texture, large growers and exporters have stuck with the Cavendish variety because it ships well, and is said to be more visually appealing.
But this lack of genetic diversity in the banana industry appears to be leading to its demise, as scientists have been warning for years that Race IV fungus will eventually spread to the Americas. When this eventually takes place, banana growers will no longer be able to grow bananas because the plants simply will not survive -- and not only will the contaminated soil become unfit for growing crops for at least a few decades, but so will the land around it.
"Race IV had probably been around for a long time, but it wasn't until these (banana) plantations went in that it had the expansion opportunity that a monoculture provides," writes Heather Smith in a recent Grist.com piece on the subject. "The 21st century looks to be the era in which those great monocultures are gradually becoming undone."
Prior to the 1960s, the Gros Michel variety of banana, also known as "Big Mike," was the order of the day in the US. This variety is more flavorful, more complex, and generally more palatable than the Cavendish variety -- but just like what is happening to the Cavendish variety, monoculture ended up ruining Gros Michel. Unfortunately this time, there is nothing in the wings to replace Cavendish when it eventually goes kaput (http://www.raw-food-health.net/Gros-Michel.h...).
Throughout Central and South America, many countries still successfully grow a diverse array of bananas on small-scale farms and even in backyard gardens. And since they are not grown in a monoculture system, they remain largely free of disease -- so when will the US and other nations that embrace industrial agriculture finally learn that the system is literally destroying food as we know it?
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