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The Cavendish banana is facing extinction (wired.co.uk)
58 points by Jaruzel 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 67 comments

The banana dying is my favorite trope. It's true, but it's been dying for a long time and we've known it's been in trouble for a long time. What with all plants being clones, no genetic diversity and having to jump from one variety to the next every time a disease or fungus gets the current variety's number.

Cavendish, like Gros Michel before it is definitely doomed. Maybe we can mix and match for a few more generations. Maybe GMO bananas will be the only answer. In which case anti-GMO people will have to decide which they like more, bananas or fear mongering.

Or maybe if we're doing gene editing, we can bring the Gros Michel back, you know, since Cavendish was thought of as a second rate banana.

Maybe GMO bananas will be the only answer. In which case anti-GMO people will have to decide which they like more, bananas or fear mongering.

The anti-science activists are also working to kill off the orange as well. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/09/140914-flor...

The Bug Mike never went extinct. They are still around but are not as easy to ship as the Cavendish.



Every now and then a article pops-up claiming bananas are dead, a break-through in battery capacity or some new revolutionary storage technology.

Don’t forget some miracle cure of cancer, peak oil and blood diamonds.

Why do bad things happen to good fruit? I wish something would wipe out the red delicious apple.

Seems like we share the same sentiment where the red delicious is concerned.

Good news!

> The Red Delicious is no longer the dominant apple in American orchards, the U.S. Apple Association said last week, after lasting five decades in the top spot. The Gala apple is now first;[0]

[0] https://slate.com/human-interest/2018/08/red-delicious-apple...

Honeycrisp is where it's at!

Check out Sweet Tangos if you have the chance, they are an improved Honeycrisp.

Juici is another amazing apple with Honeycrisp parentage, though I can barely ever find them. I believe they come out of Washington state.

Thanks, haven't seen those anywhere yet.

If you find Opal, my take on them is that they're what Golden Delicious wants to be when it grows up.

My first thought. Greeks would have called their honey and milk honey crisps if they'd had it.

I wonder how much of the popularity is based on availability. Like the fact that grey cars are the most popular, and twice when buying a car, they only had the grey available - but I would prefer blue. Salesmen said they only carry grey because they are more popular.

They have such a mealy texture, I can't stand them.

I remember this being a good apple in the past. Is it possible that modern practices of breeding and packing for shipping fitness have caused a decline in the quality?

Your memory deceives you. They look good but they've always been inferior in taste and texture.

Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/09/the-evil-...

His memory is correct.

My grandma has lived in Yakima, WA (major apple producer) for 80+ years and tells me all the time that the red delicious used to be a good apple, but was changed with the goal of being prettier, but lost flavor/texture.

Even the article you linked agrees:

"But as genes for beauty were favored over those for taste, the skins grew tough and bitter around mushy, sugar-soaked flesh. "

Thanks for pointing that out. It's not clear from the article when precisely this change happened. It would have been somewhere between 1923 when the crimson "freak bud" appeared and prior to the 1980's. So red delicious apples have tasted bad for somewhere between 38 and 95 years.

My grandma is 82, so somewhere between 38 and 82 years. Scientifically speaking ;-)

I like the subtle bittersweet flavor of a fresh red delicious apple. If you eat it before it gets mealy it's a very good fruit in my opinion :(

I think all red apples are kind of bland. Green apples are where it's at.

I like the apple varieties with a roughly even mix of red & green or red & yellow.

Yes, I favor the Cripps Pink apples.

There are several problems with apples in general, especially in the US, besides the specifics of the red delicious.

For example, most of the apples we buy are 10-12 months old [0], and stored in facilities where they use toxic gases to keep them "fresh".

[0]: https://www.foodrenegade.com/your-apples-year-old/

"Toxic gases" is unnecessary FUD. Carbon dioxide will kill you, but it's not tainting the apples.

> toxic gases

Is 'toxic gases' the new 'chemicals'?

Yep. Carbon dioxide is as toxic as nitrogen, and our atmosphere is 78% nitrogen! Stop breathing now!

The weariness against 'chemicals' is not FUD. Yes, a little trace amount of formaldehyde, benzene, ethanol and other VOCs isn't going to kill you, but it certainly has a cumulative effect on the body. You got a tiny amount in your lacquered floors you walk on, a tiny amount in your mattress, a tiny amount in those fancy non-iron dress shirts you wear, you bring back a tiny amount from the dry cleaners, a tiny amount in those moth balls you use, a tiny amount in your scented candles and perfumes and dyes, a tiny amount in your workout "sweat wicking" clothing, a tiny amount from all those various forms of plastics you use to eat and drink with, a tiny amount from all those foams you encounter throughout the day -- whether its car seats, office chairs or your pillows, all of a sudden you now have a little bit constantly in your system. And it's not about having a tiny amount of one. What happens when you have built up a couple micrograms in your system, and how does it react when combined with another? Who knows right -- no one is studying that.

Combine this with all the processed junk most Americans eat, the lack of sleep and exercise and de-stressing time, and the increasingly dirty air we breathe, I don't think it is a stretch to say we aren't doing anything to help our body and to be weary of things made with 'chemicals' considering we already have so much shit out there that has more than what we should probably be getting exposed to.

The sheer lack of nuance in just chemicals is ignorant and inherently leads to foolishness. It is about as good a framework as trying to decide if binary 1s or 0s are more dangerous. Bioaccumulation is totally peripheral to inherit toxicity although it makes toxins more problematic. Drinking too much colloidal silver will turn you blue-gray but it won't kill you.

Reminds me of "organic pesticides" being treated as rhetorically as safer because they are easier to understand despite it being the exact opposite and including heavy metals. They are broad mechanism toxins that effect essentially everything organic while synthetics are tailored to do things like disrupt very specific proteins that aren't even found in the vertabrates - much less humans themselves. Preferring known dangerous heavy metals over a remote possibility that something far safer and biodegradable that /might/ have something unknown is FUD just as sure as a known embezzler running for reelection saying his opponent might raise taxes.

Organic standards allow use of copper sulphate (subject to more controls that non-organic certified produce)

It is entirely false to characterize organic as "including heavy metals" when they simply allow a fairly common and light "heavy metal" compound which is already permitted outside their standards (ALL organic standards are permitted for non organic use)

Its striking that you could begin by lamenting "sheer lack of nuance" and proceed to base an entire criticism on deceived and inaccurate nuance.

I was thinking of the lead arsenate used in apple orchards. Specifically its widespread use to combat moth epidemics that were causing major problems and is related to contamination of groundwater around them. It was first replaced by the technically less longterm contaminating DDT briefly before a less toxic effective replacement could be found. Apparently it was banned by the 80s so I messed up the specifics but the point is that "organic" old style pesticides were often worse in toxicity and are far more general in their targetting.

Neither Lead salts or Arsenic are permitted by organic standards. No substances permitted by organic standards are not permitted under general standards.

You can check §205.602 here : https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&SID=9874504b6f1...

"I messed up the specifics but the point is that "organic" old style pesticides were often worse ..."

You have not supported that argument, that organic certified pesticides were "often worse" You seem to be misapplying the term "organic" - its a movement/brand name, not a complete selection criteria. The name refers to the "organism" of the plant,animal,ecosystem. It is a general principle that permitted substances and practices should in addition to appearing safe in the immediate term - not be alien to the life and ecosystems involved (much decreasing the likelihood of unexpected reactions in longer term)

I think you're missing the point.

Using the term 'chemicals' is too broad. Chemicals includes the water you drink. And the issue is that when you teach people 'chemicals are bad' then anyone else can say 'this is a chemical' and get people to avoid it, even when there is no need to, such as the anti-vaccine movement saying vaccines 'contain chemicals'. It's hard to refute that because yes, they do contain chemicals. The problem is that 'chemicals' were the wrong thing to be taking issue with.

Criticising a process for using a 'toxic gas' without any of the nuance of what the gas is being used for and what the properties and toxicity of the gas are and if they're relevant is just as illiterate and dangerous, and should be challenged when you see it.

I think you are being overly specific. When the average person says "I try to avoid chemicals" you know good and well what they are talking about.

That issue is your perceived issue. The fact is chemicals can most certainly be bad -- but you need to teach them that the positives gained from receiving a vaccine greatly outweigh the risks in the minuscule amount of volatile chemicals (mainly, mercury) you receive.

Ionizing Radiation is most certainly not good for you, and exposes you to risk for cell damage, but people understand the tradeoff when they go to the hospital to get an MRI to find out how best to repair their knee, or PET Scan to find out what the best course of treatment for their cancer is.

You get into these problems when you turn your nose up at people, act smugly, and say "chemicals are fine!" Rather a better strategy to combat those anti-vaxxers is to be up front "Yes there is mercury in here, and yes too much is bad for you. But your body has a liver, kidneys, and lymphatic system that does a tremendous job of cleansing toxins from your system, and the benefits you receive from this vaccine far outweigh the cons from a little bit of mercury."

That may be so. But still, I strive to only drink water that doesn't have any chemicals in it.

> I strive to only drink water that doesn't have any chemicals in it

Water is a chemical. And the water you drink probably contains many other beneficial chemicals such as dissolved minerals.

I don't eat any chemicals: I'm on a pure carbon diet.

I really don't understand the downvotes. Can you explain?

It makes sense to me, that a static species can not survive a changing environment. I believe we need to learn not to depend on monocultures and foster local production/consumption of food.

I first saw all these same claims 15 years ago.

Are there still any places you can get Gros Michel bananas? I've heard they still survive in a few places, and I've always wanted to try one.

From the linked article:

“Having given up on finding the Gros Michel in the wild, I’ve ordered it in from the Miami Fruit Company in South Florida, a tropical fruit grower with so many different bananas they’ll ship you an entire sampler of different varieties.”

The western 'standard' banana is 'dying' but there are many great varieties that seem to be doing well in SE Asia (for example)

There have been surprisingly many banana extinction stories on HN, though you have to pick them out from the other banana stories:


The cavendish isn't really that good of a banana, among all the banana species, so no one should shed a tear if it's supplanted with a different species.

Blue Java Bananas are yummy. (altho probably not destined to be the replacement).

This is clickbait. Bananas as a species are doing just fine, it's the Cavendish cultivar that is in danger due to being a monoculture, just like the Gros Michel was when most of its groves got wiped out. Some other SE Asian banana will just end up taking its place if and when the Cavendish gets taken out as a result of monoculture, and quite frankly many of those varieties are vastly superior to the Cavendish anyway.

Also clickbait, the demise of the Cavendish is a yearly article with basically the same content published every years.

This one seems to be prompted by the recent rejection of a GMO solution.

This is the banana equivalent of publishing "The Car is dying, the race to save personal transportation is on" as a result of VW emission scandal.

If they're superior, why haven't they already replaced the Cavendish?

Depends who is interested. For consumers who like tasty bananas there are plenty that are superior. For growers and distributers who only care about whether a variety grows cheaply and ships in good condition then they're gonna be upset.

They were widely adopted after the Gros Michel fell to Panama disease due to their perceived resistance to the disease and the fact that they travel and keep very well compared to other cultivars. A lot of consumers don't even know that other banana cultivars even exist.

But the growers know and the retailers know. If they thought a change would be profitable, they would have. It's likely that the disappearance of the Cavendish will be very disruptive .

Why isn't anyone but Donald Trump the President of the United States?

Repeated sampling of US presidents has rarely resulted in Donald Trump. We've had 44 others. On the other hand, looking over the history of elected leaders around the world, demagogues like Trump are not infrequent.

Contrasting with the Cavendish banana, what proportion of bananas sold are Cavendish? The vast majority, I've been told.

Something different is sometimes sold now, and it is a poor substitute. Walmart seems to like selling it. Maybe you can identify it.

The visible difference is that it never becomes pure yellow. Little brown spots show up while the banana is still somewhat green.

The old bananas would be OK when pure yellow, wonderful with a sprinkling of small brown spots, and OK with lots of brown spots. The weird unripe flavor (sort of cucumber-like but hard to describe) goes away and the bananas become sweet, and then slowly they get mushy.

The new bananas don't ever get as sweet, don't ever lose that unripe flavor, and become mushy while still having a hint of green.

I grow blue java bananas in my yard. Rajapuri bananas are fairly popular around here.

Where is, 'around here' ?

Phoenix AZ area.

Eventually we will learn, and practice, that growing a single crop in gigantic monocultures like this is a bad idea.

At what point do we run out of other varieties of crops to take genes from?

I think the sustainable end point are genetically engineered yeasts grown in sterile indoor pools that takes in sunlight, growth medium and minerals to product some kind of nutritionally complete Soylent for humans to eat.

Not only is it clickbait, it's rehashed clickbait. The demise of the cavendish banana has been repeated for many years now.

"The banana"

It annoys me, probably more than is rational, when I see that. There are lots of types of banana, it's just that we in the west usually only get 1 or 2, because that's what gets cultivated in huge quantities, and is easiest to ship.

On my travels, and sometimes just from a more internationally focused store than a typical supermarket, I've had apple bananas, lady fingers, Fe'i and various types of plantain. I'd love to try ice-cream bananas, red daccas and all the rest.

But what we get is just more Cavendish... and these meme-like articles that crop up several times a year.

Potentially dumb question: are plantains ok?

Damn... give me the GMO bananas please and I'll eat NOTHING ELSE for a month just to prove a point.

Misleading title! Looks like a push to spread GM foods as opposed to any relevant issue. As someone who cultivates banana for real, TR4 is not an issue in Asian countries like the article says.

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