Are Bananas Going Extinct?

Several banana varieties
Several banana varieties

Everyone's Favorite Fruit

While the banana may be the most widely grown and consumed fruit in the world, recent alarming reports have emerged that the banana is going extinct. What on earth will everyone do without ice cream sundaes and banana bread? All joking aside though, many countries rely on bananas as a staple food, even drying them and grinding them up to be used as flour. The impact of bananas going extinct could cause hunger and even starvation in many parts of the world. Just why are scientists so anxious about the imminent destruction of the banana, and is their concern worthwhile, or just a load of hot air?

Wild bananas are full of seeds.
Wild bananas are full of seeds.

The Origin of the Modern Banana

The lovely yellow bananas that grace supermarket shelves are the result of long years of human agricultural manipulation. Scientists think that banana cultivation may reach back to 5000 BCE, and began in New Guinea, Malaysia, and other tropical Southeast Asian locales. Certainly the natives had a reason to try to cultivate better bananas. Take a look at the picture to the right. Guess what that is...a wild banana! In its natural state bananas are filled with annoying seeds, making the fruit difficult to eat. Someone realized that there had to be a better way.

Getting Rid of the Seeds

In order to make the fruit more edible bananas were cultivated with smaller and smaller seeds. Now all you can see in your regular banana is the remnant of those seeds, which appear as teensy black specks in the fruit. However, in getting rid of the seeds cultivators took away the banana's ability to reproduce sexually. This means that when farmers want to grow new banana plants they must break off a corm (part of the root) to grow a new plant. So, essentially, all bananas are really just clones of the exact same plant.

Do you like bananas?

  • Blech get it away!
  • Love em! Raw, cooked, in ice cream...mmmm.
  • Only in a cooked dish or with other food, like ice cream or banana bread.
See results without voting

What does This Have to do With Extinction?

Well, as anyone who's ever learned about basic genetics knows, diversity is the spice of life, literally. The more diverse a species is the more resistant it is to disease and other adversity. Take humans for example. Some people have natural immunity to certain diseases (like my sister does to measles) and even if an outbreak happened some number (however small) of the population would survive to rebuild.

But, since bananas are all effectively the same plant, they have no immunity to certain diseases, which include Panama Disease (a soil fungus) and Black Sigatoka (a leaf fungus).

Farewell sweet Cavendish?
Farewell sweet Cavendish?

So Bananas ARE Going Extinct?

Well, not necessarily. (Gotcha). In this case what scientists are worried about is the extinction of a certain type of banana, namely the Cavendish. See, there are many banana varieties, ranging from yellow to red, small to large. However, the banana we know as bananais the Cavendish. Its long, bright yellow presence is a constant in our supermarkets and our homes. Losing the Cavendish to say, a red banana, would just be so weird that some people might not even consider them the same fruit. But, losing a banana type is not without precedence. Prior to the 1960s the main banana variety was the "Gros Michel", but it too succumbed to disease. It is entirely likely that our children may never know bananas in the form that we do. To them a yellow banana may just be plain weird. But we've lost our bananas before, and still made it out the other side intact. We can do so again.

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Comments 13 comments

Haunty profile image

Haunty 7 years ago from Hungary

Finally! Some light shining at the end of the corridor...

O Lord, deliver us from bananas!


CennyWenny profile image

CennyWenny 7 years ago from Washington Author

Hehe:) I got interested in the subject after a friend insisted they were going extinct. Poor things, no sex in a couple thousand years...


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

I like the tiny ones best, far more flavor. interesting to see what happens when you don't have sex! Obvious really!


seopositions profile image

seopositions 7 years ago from Victoria Texas

Interesting view on bananas! haha! I love it!


CennyWenny profile image

CennyWenny 7 years ago from Washington Author

Gypsy Willow- Ok, I have to admit I've never had a small banana! But I really want to try what they call an "ice cream" banana, which is blue and silver and tastes like ice cream, supposedly.

Seopositions-Thanks for stopping by!


tony0724 profile image

tony0724 7 years ago from san diego calif

What a bummer I love banannas !


CennyWenny profile image

CennyWenny 7 years ago from Washington Author

Tony-Dont' worry, they'll still be around, just a little different is all:)


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 7 years ago from Southern California, USA

I love bananas, but have to eat them when overly ripe and brown on the skins. People would have panic attacks and say the bananas are rotten at that point, but that is not true.


Enelle Lamb profile image

Enelle Lamb 7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

I can't eat them like that...I'm at the other end of the scale, eating them just as the ripen from green to yellow - I'll send you all the ones that, to me, are over ripe LOL


Jewels profile image

Jewels 7 years ago from Australia

Love a good firm banana. What a shame if can no longer peel a Cavendish. I'll just have to go for a red one next, try anything once.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

Fun Hub - great info! I'll be back to read more...


CennyWenny profile image

CennyWenny 7 years ago from Washington Author

Sweetie- Actually, under normal, not induced ripening (which happens to most commericial bananas) they are ripe when they turn brown!

However, Like Enelle I like 'em green:)

Jewels: I agree, though I might balk at "Rocky Mountain Oysters"...:)

Thanks for stopping by RedElf!


Elalicious 6 years ago

Gach! That'd kill me, I just love bananas. My friend told me that they may be going extinct and told me too look it up.

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