Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
The fungus that devastates the Cavendish banana has now arrived in Latin America (nationalgeographic.com)
252 points by reddotX 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 191 comments
 help




Fun banana facts:

Bananas are the most-sold item at most grocery stores and, notably, Wal-Mart.

Bananas also have the highest standard deviation in terms of predicting if a given (known) consumer will purchase bananas in a given store run. (At least as compared to other food products and consumables.) When predicting a consumer's shop, it's generally pretty easy to make a highly educated guess about their purchasing activity and, thus, to project volumes for products. But bananas defy that wisdom, except that people in aggregate buy a lot of them. Someone who buys bananas reliably every week for months will randomly stop for months, and then start again, for no perceivable rhyme or reason. Bananas aren't seasonal purchases like berries or corn or other fruits or vegetables. Bananas also tend to be a high purchase at gas stations and convenience stores.

Bananas have to be effectively "tricked" into continuing to ripen after being prematurely picked and then refrigerated for transit. So there are banana ripening centers that pump ethylene through a chilled chamber to get them to ripen.


> Bananas also have the highest standard deviation in terms of predicting if a given (known) consumer will purchase bananas in a given store run. (At least as compared to other food products and consumables.) When predicting a consumer's shop, it's generally pretty easy to make a highly educated guess about their purchasing activity and, thus, to project volumes for products. But bananas defy that wisdom, except that people in aggregate buy a lot of them. Someone who buys bananas reliably every week for months will randomly stop for months, and then start again, for no perceivable rhyme or reason. Bananas aren't seasonal purchases like berries or corn or other fruits or vegetables. Bananas also tend to be a high purchase at gas stations and convenience stores.

Where can I find and read more things like this?


This was from a friend who worked adjacent predictive analytics for Prime Fresh, who was complaining to me about how frustrating bananas were to account for, but how they can't just exclude them because if you're not able to cover a substantial enough portion of the consumer's shop, then you're not doing their job, and they end up in a supermarket to complete the shop anyway, and you lose sales you would've otherwise had.

From my days working in software for the retail market about 20 years ago, we had to build functionality to allow the exclusion of bananas and milk from our predictive analytics application because EVERYBODY bought them. Probably over 99% of retail grocer transactions contained them.

As someone who despises bananas outside of banana bread, I find this episode of Banana Facts completely shocking. I always thought is was like cilantro, where some people think it tastes like soap. I guess I'm the only one who has to suppress my gag reflex whenever someone peels a banana within smelling distance?

I have a friend who goes berserk just being within eyesight or nose...smell of bananas. Her story is that her mom fed her too many of them as a kid. Whether that's the real reason or not, I don't know. But there are at least two of you. But probably only two. ;)

I don't think I know anyone that doesn't like bananas IRL. It's the only thing that keeps me grounded and reminds me that we're all just a bunch of hairless monkeys.

That's super interesting! Are you saying 99% of retail grocer transactions contained either bananas or milk? Or BOTH?

All pre ripened fruits are gassed with ethylene to ripen them, not just bananas.

Tip: if you want to ripen your fruit or e.g. avocados faster, put them in a bag with a fruit that is ripe because the ripe fruit gives off a lot of ethylene which will ripen the others.


> Bananas aren't seasonal purchases like berries ...

Fun fact, though - bananas ARE berries :)


Haha, fair point! I of course meant like summer berries like blueberries or strawberries. :-)

Strawberries are, despite the name, not berries, just as bananas are berries.

> banana ripening centers that pump ethylene through a chilled chamber to get them to ripen.

Thanks for sharing this. I've read a few things like this one, regarding "ripening centers" for various fruits, including apples and strawberries.

I am not sure that a banana stays "healthy" after going through a toxic gas - well, apparently the normal concentrations are not toxic to humans [0]: "Ethylene has been found not harmful or toxic to humans in the concentrations found in ripening rooms (100-150 ppm)."

Or maybe IT IS toxic after all? [1]. This is where a national medical/certification/food system should step in and clarify things for good.

[0]: https://www.catalyticgenerators.com/ethylene-c2h4/

[1]: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/MMG/MMG.asp?id=730&tid=133


Ethylene oxide is a completely different chemical from ethylene. They're as different as methane and formaldehyde. Ethylene oxide is an epoxide, a class of chemicals that are generally extremely reactive. Ethylene is a simple hydrocarbon.

Thanks for clarifying. I'm deeply ignorant, despite I loved studying Chemistry 20+ years ago.

Similarly, meat processors pump carbon monoxide into meat packaging to keep it looking cosmetically fresher/redder.

Are you a data scientist?

He listened to the Freakanomics podcast about cavendish.

> Bananas are the most-sold item at most grocery stores and, notably, Wal-Mart.

In which country? The US? This can't be globally true..


The photography book Hungry Planet[1] by Peter Manzel shows what 30 families around the world typically purchase in groceries. Looking at them is almost like an exercise in find the bananas. A few of the families do not have bananas, but no other food is as common in the pictures.

[1] http://menzelphoto.com/galleries/hungry-planet/


I'm a surgeon and always ask patients what they do for a living. I once took care of a gentleman who travels the world for his company that designs and manufactures refrigeration units that are used to ripen green bananas. I never would have thought it.

I've heard this about Dutch stores as well. Supermarkets sell banana's at 0% margin or even a loss simply because it lures customers in.

They have been 49 cents per pound in the grocery store in NY, both where I grew and in WNY for as long as I can remember. They have got to be at a loss if you consider they don't adjust for inflation or gas prices, etc. Milk does this too if I'm not mistaken, a lot of grocery stores use that as a customer lure as well.

Or, put another way, because they HAVE to sell them: if you're the grocery that _doesn't_ carry bananas, people will move their shop elsewhere.

Same thing when I worked in a convenience store in Norway, bananas were far and away the most sold item, even during very busy seasonal peaks.

Bananas are the first item in the store. Just based on how they are merchandised it would be easy to predict this. (I know it is more complicated than that, please don't reply with "loss leader")

Bananas are the prime cautionary tale against monoculture. The number of native breeds which are now gone for the sake of promotion of one particular breed leads to less resilience against disease and pests. Just in my corner of India, there are various varieties. [1] However, in the U.S., the only variety you often get to see is the insipid Cavendish, whose only merit seems to be shelf-life.

If you travel in the tropics, do try out local varieties. It is an amazing fruit (?).

[1] http://mywordsnthoughts.com/myworld/all-about-kerala/differe...


I currently live in Vietnam, but was recently traveling around Laos by motorbike. The bananas there are almost inedible... they taste awful. I found it fascinating how different they were compared with Vietnamese bananas.

That said, I saw huge fields of farmed trees literally everywhere there (as well as in VN). I don't think they are in any real danger of disappearing like these articles say. It is very sensationalist news.


Interesting, I was just going to say how varied and incredibly tasty the local Lao bananas are. I wonder if we have different taste or you've tried different ones than I have.

The ones I like best are the very small "good smelling bananas" (ກ້ວຍຫອມ).


I found that when you first bite into the outside, it was good, but as you got into the center, it had a very bad taste that ruined the experience of the outside. It was a weird and totally unexpected thing for me since I normally love bananas. I tried stopping at several different vendors (stands) on the roadside to make sure it wasn't just one. I was mostly north of Vientiane, so maybe the southern ones are better.

> it had a very bad taste that ruined the experience of the outside

Maybe you picked a plantain instead a banana. They are big and showy, but unedible unless cooked (or almost rotten)


There's definitely a few different strains of bananas in asia, it's not uncommon to see 2-3 different types of bananas being sold right next to each other in the markets. The most obvious indicator to me is the size of the individual bananas, the smaller ones taste pretty weird to me.

OH, and also I assume there's a bit of a taste difference with the bananas we're used to because they weren't dosed in Ethlyene to hasten the ripening. (In western countries the grocery warehouse has a room for spraying bananas in ethlyene before delivering to the grocery stores)


2-3 doesn't sound like much, even in australia we have that

In the UK we don't. you have to hunt pretty hard to find a banana that isn't a cavendish (or a plantain)

In fact I don't think I've ever seen a second variety since i've started looking... (probably in the wrong markets, but that's kind of my point)


Sure they do. I live in london. Go to shepherd's bush market[0] and you can find cooking bananas like plantain, bluggo and matoke (my fave), and for desert bananas you can find fig/monkey bananas, red bananas and I think I've seen more. Go somewhere caribbean oriented and you'll have a better chance. Plus you'll find other unusual stuff too.

[0] worth it just for being the polar opposite of a sterile, well ordered, monoculture of a supermarket. It's fab.

(Edit: I didn't read your comment properly so my reply isn't so relevant)


Are you sure they weren't cooking bananas (plantains)?

Yes

That said, I saw huge fields of farmed trees literally everywhere there (as well as in VN). I don't think they are in any real danger of disappearing like these articles say. It is very sensationalist news.

"I can't see the problem with my own eyes so I don't think there's a problem." is exactly the sort of thinking that leads to climate denial and anti-vaxx nonsense. Unless you've spent a lot of time and effort understanding the banana industry you simply aren't qualified to make that judgement.


This is a very hostile comment that also does not contribute much to the discussion. The person you are responding to was making the case that in countries outside the traditional view of these media outlets, the alternative breeds are doing fine. That's a case worth making, because it counters the almost propagandist view of the world you will get from your couch reading western media outlets.

If you have a quality rebuttal of this point that would be a second issue, but comparing this human being who took the time to respond to you with a logically consistent argument an anti-vaxxer just because you can't see it right now is not healthy discourse.


"I saw huge fields of farmed trees literally everywhere there [therefore] I don't think they are in any real danger of disappearing" is not actually an argument, though. There will continue to be huge fields of trees, right up until there aren't.

Wow, that is a stretch to loop my thinking in with both of those movements. I am not even close to that nonsense.

Of course I'm no expert, but this whole banana disappearance story has been going on for many years, yet we still have bananas. There is not even close to a shortage of bananas. It reminds me of the Helium is running out stories.

Let me also remind you that the story is talking about a specific strain and my comment was clearly not about that strain.

I could also say... unless you've driven 8500km all over Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and seen first hand the millions of banana trees, your thinking might be constrained to some one sitting behind a keyboard.


There is not even close to a shortage of bananas.

IANABE (I am not a banana expert) but I know that no one suggested there is a shortage right now. What's threatened is the world's supply of Cavendish bananas which is what every Western country imports. Prior to that everyone ate Gros Michel bananas, but practically all plantations growing that particular crop were wiped out in the space of 30 years by Panama Disease. Cavendish was the response - it was Panama Disease resistant, but about 15 years ago the disease started attacking Cavendish crops. The concern is that this means we're a decade or two away from losing Cavendish and we don't have a suitable replacement (because, as people have said in this thread, other bananas aren't as tasty to Western palettes).

To post "Nah, there's no problem" shows you don't quite understand that problem, and to cite that you've seen a few big banana plantations as evidence that the problem isn't a real one just compounds the issue.

If Panama Disease mutates to attack the plantations you saw they could all be gone in a decade. That's how virulent the disease is. It is a problem.


> What's threatened is the world's supply of Cavendish bananas which is what every Western country imports.

Actually, quite a few Western countries export them. And quite a few Western countries import (or domestically grow and consume) other varieties, though typically in smaller quantities.


> we don't have a suitable replacement

That is your opinion. I've been lucky enough to taste plenty of other banana strains and there are definitely better banana's than Cavendish. The smaller ones that you generally get in this region, that are really ugly on the outside, taste so much better.

> you've seen a few big banana plantations

More than 'a few'... literally 3 whole countries worth. There is absolutely no shortage of trees and farms. Just to give you an idea of how much I've seen and I didn't even tag all of it... https://imgur.com/a/olSoTXe

I'm not saying that this disease isn't a problem, but I have hard time believing it is a catastrophic problem for all bananas.

If you're going to go into big problems, I'd say that African Swine flu is a much larger issue for this region. I drove through countless 'checkpoints' all over northern VN/Laos where they sprayed down my motorbike wheels with some unknown chemicals. There are literally signs everywhere talking about the issue. Millions of swine have been slaughtered. Usually you see pigs running around freely on the roads, but once you get to a certain point in northern vn, you stop seeing them entirely.


The original article indicates that most banana strains cannot be mass-marketed:

"Although thousands of banana varieties grow around the world, only a few have the precise characteristics necessary to withstand the rigors of large-scale commercial cultivation, long-distance transport, and international marketing. A banana with those characteristics, a taste and appearance similar to the beloved Cavendish, and resistance to TR4 does not exist."


That is your opinion.

It's not my opinion. It's the opinion of every banana industry analyst who says losing the Cavendish would be the end of the banana export industry, which is pretty much all of them. There's a reason why we get articles catastrophising about the impact of Panama Disease posted to HN on a semi-regular basis.


> It's the opinion of every banana industry analyst who says losing the Cavendish would be the end of the banana export industry, which is pretty much all of them.

What a great title for a business card. Of course they have every motivation to say that the sky is falling. It attracts attention, doesn't it?

> There's a reason why we get articles catastrophising about the impact of Panama Disease posted to HN on a semi-regular basis.

I'm sure there is a reason, but it may not be what you think it is.


> I'm not saying that this disease isn't a problem, but I have hard time believing it is a catastrophic problem for all bananas.

It's a catastrophic problem for the existing commercial banana industry, not for “all bananas”.


> the existing commercial banana industry

You mean in the US or elsewhere? The US is only 25% of the total market. While a big number, there are far larger consumers of bananas. 'it is important to note that only 15 percent of banana production is traded in the international market'.

It sounds like people might have to learn to eat another type of banana. It has already happened when the market switched from Gros Michael to Cavendish. Given that there is 1000 varieties of bananas out there, that is a marketing problem, not a catastrophic problem.

http://www.fao.org/economic/est/est-commodities/bananas/bana...


> You mean in the US or elsewhere?

I mean the existing commercial banana industry dependent on the present scale of output and sales to the developed world.

> The US is only 25% of the total market.

Not talking about just the US.

> it is important to note that only 15 percent of banana production is traded in the international market'.

And, e.g., the domestic production and consumption of East African bananas (a sizable share of the global total production) isn't part of the international commercial trade at issue (and isn't affected by losing the Cavendish since East African bananas are an entirely different set of varieties.)

> It sounds like people might have to learn to eat another type of banana. It has already happened when the market switched from Gros Michael to Cavendish.

Gros Michel and the cultivars Ithe Cavendish subgroup are quite similar in taste and commercial properties (Gros Michel is a bit thicker skinned and more transport hardy than most Cavendish varieties as I understand.) Which is why it's what the industry largely turned to when Gross Michel became nonviable.

Cavendish was the low hanging fruit of alternative bananas. > Given that there is 1000 varieties of bananas out there, that is a marketing problem, not a catastrophic problem.

There's far fewer that are plausible replacements for Cavendish in large scale trade even before considering whether they are Panama disease resistant and other production and transport features. Cooking bananas that would, were they traded alongside existing commercial varieties, compete more with plantains than Cavendish bananas aren't a plausible replacement.


You didn't listen it seems:

There is no commercially exploitable banana for export that we know of yet. Going from Gros Michel to Cavendish required rethinking how we farm, harvest, ship, ripen, sell bananas. Cavendish could simply not be shipped like Gros Michel before.

You said yourself that Cavendish is a "boring" banana. This might be true. But all the great, tasty, small bananas you are talking about cannot be shipped anywhere by the means we know of today. That is, every market outside of the banana growing regions cannot have these, they will be mush, rotten or inedible once they reach the shelves.

Apart from that, I agree, we will (hopefully) eventually find a replacement and adjust our methods and taste. I'm all open for new banana tastes. But the problem is real, the economy as a system (farmers, logistics, consumer) does not know of an alternative so far. Even if you think different.

But I guess you could be very rich if you have an alternative ready and are willing to transport it and selling it in EU/US/Canada.


> But all the great, tasty, small bananas you are talking about cannot be shipped anywhere by the means we know of today

I'm fairly sure I've seen labelled-as-imported dwarf red and apple bananas in California, but certainly the transport properties of most plausible replacements by taste are inferior to Cavendish (and I don't even know if any of them are Panama disease resistant, and if they aren't, they aren't plausible replacements.)


You can get small quantities at meh pricing of other bananas, too. The question is whether there's anything that can be produced and shipped in large quantities at reasonable cost, like the Cavendish.

> Let me also remind you that the story is talking about a specific strain and my comment was clearly not about that strain.

Since TR4 has reportedly been present in Southeast Asia for quite a while, sighting a ton of TR4-vulnerable bananas growing there would be evidence that the story is sensationalized.

But if the bananas you saw are TR4-resistant, your anecdote isn't really relevant at all.

In that case, or if you don't know which case it is, you really can't justifiably say that the article is sensationalized.


> Of course I'm no expert, but this whole banana disappearance story has been going on for many years, yet we still have bananas. There is not even close to a shortage of bananas. It reminds me of the Helium is running out stories.

Right now you are discarding his (albeit hostile phrasing) argument by using the exact argument he was criticizing.

"Years" is a really short time. Same as with climate deniers that can't abstract away their perception of time long enough (pun unintentional, but noted) to understand that "urgent" could mean 5 years, in the scope of a hundred years or more.

To put it in perspective it's like telling someone that if they don't break or turn their car they will go off the road, and they after a second discard it as false since they're still on the road. But they're still 1 second closer to crashing.

I'm not informed on the subject, but your logic is flawed.


Are those Cavendish bananas in Vietnam? If they're another variety consumed locally, that wouldn't contradict the article's claims:

> Although thousands of banana varieties grow around the world, only a few have the precise characteristics necessary to withstand the rigors of large-scale commercial cultivation, long-distance transport, and international marketing. A banana with those characteristics, a taste and appearance similar to the beloved Cavendish, and resistance to TR4 does not exist.


I don't get all this talk about "insipid Cavendish". Am I the only one that thinks Cavendish bananas are delicious? Yes, it's true that every other variety I've tried is better (I live in Mexico and we have several varieties of banana and plantain available), but even being the worst kind of banana I still think the Cavendish is very tasty.

When people say it's insipid do they just mean compared to other bananas (in which case I agree)? Are they not eating them ripe or something? Or am I just too easy to please fruit-wise?


> Yes, it's true that every other variety I've tried is better

What was the question again?

You might want to place those Cavendish ones on the oven with a little of butter, or to fry them. They are unbeatable on that format, but are pretty bland otherwise.


For both baking and frying in butter, I prefer plantains (so I wouldn't say Cavendish is unbeatable in those formats).

We used to wrap them in tin foil and put them on the barbecue while we ate the main course. Lovely.

In my experience it's just that other varieties just taste better. The Cavendish isn't bad, strictly speaking, it's just grown because it ships and stores very well.

> Am I the only one that thinks Cavendish bananas are delicious?

I don't have a problem with them. But they way they are grown is highly hit or miss. Yes, Cavendishes may all look similar. But the worst and best tasting banana I've ever had was in highschool and from a local grocer.

I don't think most people have had a proper ripe cavendish. They get what the supermarket has told them is a ripe cavendish. And this yellow, starchy, pulp really is a banana. So they assume the Cavendish is not a good tasting banana.


This is something that got me surprised when I came to the US: every banana is the same kind. Back home I used to have several kinds of bananas, each kind tasting like real fruits. US bananas have a bland taste, and always seem like they're still green (which is the case, because they become ripe by chemical processes).

yip, and they are about to become a cautionary tale about GMO it seems. monoculture was once the height of scientific farming techniques. unintended consequences seems to be an unknown consequence of scientism, the religious zealotry that some have for science

They have potential to become the first widely used GMO, as it will be easy to add immunity to this fungus with a small CRISPR edit.

Many GMO’s are very common already. 1/2 of all soybeans are GMO.


that edit will have other consequences for the plant as well as there is no gene that specifically controls susceptibility to this fungus

Platanos de la isla in Peru have an interesting flavor.

I find it weird that people would not like other variety of bananas. Like there are generally more than one type of apples, potatoes, onions, tomotoes, and lettuce at most grocery stores.

I would like the choice.


They do. Go to any supermarket in Brazil and there will be several different varieties of bananas, see [1] for the main 5 types. There, having just one would seem as understocked as an American supermarket with just one type of apple.

But they're grown nearby and can ripen very quickly. When they need to be transported between continents, I think that's what Cavendish is best-suited for.

Also to be honest, the difference in taste between the different types is a lot less than between types of apples or types of greens, in my opinion. The smaller ones can be sweeter and have more banana flavor... but it's not a huge difference.

[1] https://www.mundoecologia.com.br/wp-content/gallery/tipos-de...


It's often worth parsing "people would like" as "marketers think people would like."

Or even, "although people would like, someone's trying to maximize profit margins."

And that second one is notably is taken within the scope of that quarter, or the next few years that they expect to work there, or even the next few decades before they expect to retire. Which often conflicts with longer-term sustainability problems like retained biodiversity.


Bananas are the chicken breast of fruit. Boring/predictable, depending on your perspective.

I love them. They're a fruit, but are non-messy, not tart, easy to eat and calorifically denser than most other fruit. Like a healthy mini meal on the run.

If memory serves, bananas are only profitable as a monoculture. In addition to bananas being triploidy and unable to seed, it’s basically impossible to grow and establish the seedless variety of plant by any other means other than cloning.

It’s a pretty unique fruit and it’s economy has tumbled in the past already got these very reasons.


Why do bananas have to be seedless?

People hated the seedy variants. It was more seeds than fruit and messy to eat. Note: you could not eat the seeds it seems (large and hard)

There are a lot of sizes for the seeds. I have never seen the 'more seeds than fruit' you mention.

I do remember eating bananas where the seeds where all about 0.3 mm to 0.5 mm.


Those aren't viable seeds. Cavendish bananas (or other bananas that are cross-breeds) have 3 chromosomes (triploidy) since they are cross bread between a diploid (2) and a tetraploid (4). These triploidy cells cannot perform mitosis and thus do not enlarge in the banana. They still have "seeds" but they are so tiny that they pass right through our digestive track and don't break our teeth.

If you see a viable seed it's going to be quite large, looking like 5-10 mm each: https://www.quora.com/Diploid-bananas-have-seeds-How-many-se...


There’s so much variety - just not in US supermarkets

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20888103


I do see other types of bananas for sale occasionally. Little cluster types and the big plantains for cooking.

When I was in Bali there were several varieties. They were smaller than Cavendish, but all were perfectly pleasant to eat so I wonder why we can't have those in the US and Europe.

Because they don't ship well-- skin thickness and ripening time. We can have them in the US and EU, but not at a reasonable cost.

This leads me to think that the problem is not that "the banana" will disappear as a fruit globally, but that there will be no more a variety that is durable and cheap to transport around the world. So I think it's more a problem of international shipping than the extinction of a fruit.

Can't this be solved by improving the transportation of the less durable varieties?


Oh, of course. Bananas are not going extinct. There's still Gros Michel bananas like we "lost" before. They're just not commercially viable anymore.

The question is whether there is anything that can be readily made commercially viable and used for the role that we use the Cavendish now.

Most of the rest of bananas out there are not very much like the Cavendish we're used to (though some of the small ones are yummier-- if they could be made more hardy it would be worth getting used to eating tiny bananas ;).


Consumers in some countries don't even know there is more than one type. Monoculture and mass distribution rule. Where I live now there are half-a-dozen varieties that are routinely eaten.

With most of those, each type has a distinct use.

Granny Smith apples are for baking, McIntosh apples are for eating fresh, Red Delicious apples are for decoration, and the rest serve no purpose.

Russet potatoes are for baking, stew, and fries. Purple potatoes are for frying up with steak. The rest serve no purpose.

It's different with bananas. Cavendish is good. Maybe the Gros Michel is good too, but I wouldn't know. The rest are variations of sour, mushy, slimy, and too tiny. It's also a problem of telling when a banana is ripe. It is easy to memorize exactly how a single variety of banana ripens. If there are more varieties, they get mixed up and eaten at the wrong time.


If you truly think other apples/potatoes serve no purpose, I feel sorry for you.

I can assure you, you are very wrong about the uses of other varieties of Apples and Potatoes. You're also wrong about russet potatoes for stew -- other varieties work out a lot better when you want your potatoes to hold their shape.

(I would assume likewise with bananas as well, but I don't have the experience to know myself.)

It's OK -- maybe you don't have the most acute tastebuds or just lack a culinary interest. It's even pretty much dead wrong to think about these things in terms of uses. Food can be a delight and an art, and proscribed "use" doesn't allow for that.

Anyway: if you haven't tried it in a while, branch out. You might really enjoy and appreciate what you've been missing out on.


I do have a strong culinary interest, but I'm also choosy. I try lots of things to discover what is best, and then I use what is best.

Russet potatoes are the best for stew. The others have off flavors or don't soften as nicely.

I have tried many types of cheese. I eliminated all except mozzarella and mild cheddar.

I have tried every exotic fruit in the store except durian. I ended up liking jackfruit, dragonfruit, rambutan, lychee, longan, and loquat.

The point of trying new foods is to find the best, not to pretend that they are all equally delicious.


And has been since every 6 months since 2008. Probably even before then, but hn.alogolia.com doesn't go back further.

There's always money in the banana story.

I remember reading in 2003 that bananas could be extinct by 2013.

These sentences seemed at odds with one another:

> Banana agriculture is itself partly to blame for the potential of the fungus to spread. Commercial plantations grow almost exclusively one clonal variety, called the Cavendish; these plants’ identical genetics mean they are also identically susceptible to disease.

and then very shortly after saying:

> ... residents of banana-producing nations rely on a multitude of local varieties, including plantains, for their food security. Panama disease TR4 has a notoriously broad host range, meaning it threatens nearly all of these varieties to some degree.


I don't see these in conflict. commercially exported banana is based on clonal reproduction and is therefore highly exposed to risk of a disease. All banana varieties (to some extent) have risk, the locally consumed varieties are not always Cavendish, or LadyFinger but include more rich varieties which may or may not be clonally sourced, but do include seeded bananas and plantain varieties, but also have the risk: its just commercial agriculture has driven to a very very high risk of consequence.

Not sure of the specifics here - one reconciliation of the two statements could be, that Cavendish proved to be a good transport vector for this particular strain of fungus to spread rapidly on a global scale, notwithstanding its broad virulence.

From Wikipedia: "Cavendish bananas accounted for 47% of global banana production between 1998 and 2000, and the vast majority of bananas entering international trade."

Residents of banana-producing countries eat more varieties of bananas (locally produced), but even those bananas are at risk.


I’d take that to mean that the residents of those countries don’t typically get their bananas from commercial plantations.

There's a GMO variety of the Cavendish that is resistant to the Panama Disease.

https://www.accessscience.com/content/genetic-engineering-of...


The other way of solving this problem would be not to have massive unnatural monoculture plantations. The reason the fungus kills literally all of the Cavendish bananas is every single one has the exact same genetic information. They're all clones. Each shares the exact same set of weaknesses, including this fungus.

The Cavendishes have all been grown in exclusion zones for years, where you have to scrub yourself down to get in.


I want to have GMO big mikes =(

I've always wanted to try a Big Mike

Atlas Obscura had an article in which they ordered a box of Big Mikes from the Miami Fruit Company. It's a little on the pricy side to ship boxes of boutique fruits across the country, but they have quite an interesting selection.

If I was in your shoes, I might wait for Big Mikes to be in season, then order the banana variety pack[1] (and ask that they include a Big Mike). You could pre-order a large box (10-14lbs) of Big Mikes[2], but that seems like a lot to buy at once.

I've never heard of these folks before today, but now I kind of want to throw a fruit tasting party.

[1]: https://miamifruit.org/collections/fresh-and-dried/products/... [2]: https://miamifruit.org/collections/banana-pre-orders/product...


I regularly order fruit from these guys and can attest that it's all very good quality. The banana sampler in particular is one of the few ways I can actually get a good variety of bananas outside of being on holiday.

I was recently in Colombia and made a point to find one. They are indeed much creamier and tastier than the Cavendish but nothing to lose your mind over. I still eat bananas regularly but even months later I find the taste dull relative to the Big Mike.

This alone is the reason why visiting Thailand is on my bucket list. They're still grown there.

> Other scientists—most notably, James Dale of the Queensland University of Technology in Australia—are testing genetically modified disease-resistant Cavendish bananas, but public acceptance of GMOs could prove a significant obstacle to their widespread adoption.

This is the problem right here. The lack of science education. A banana modified in a lab and one that is bred through selective breeding are both "GMO", it's just that one is done in a targeted manner and the other relies on random luck in the mutations.

If people weren't so afraid of science this problem would already be solved.

The two main producers refuse to even consider the "GMO" bananas because they are afraid they won't sell. If they would just take up the cause, they could put enough money behind this to solve the problem in a year.


I'm pretty up to date on the science myself, and I still consider myself anti-GMO for a host of reasons, little to do with the science. My objections are more philosophical.

two primary reasons: hubris and greed.

The hubris to think we know which varietals are the best and will continue to be the best. We may go all in on one species or variant and then turns out an unknown bacteria we have previously no clue about wipes out all of them. You never know, you need variety. Bacteria outnumber us all.

number two: greed. You worried about tech being consolidated into the big 5? how about this scientific research? you want our food, something we actually depend on, to be consolidated into 2-3 chemical companies? I don't.

Smaller reasons include: the power of being able to still survive on pure nature's means, and the freedom to do so. We don't realize it, but these things we do out here in the more advanced nations greatly impact the developing world, where a large portion of the world's population exists.


> The hubris to think we know which varietals are the best and will continue to be the best.

If they don't grow GMO Cavendish, they will pick some other variety and grow that everywhere, like they did after the Gros Michel went under. GMO doesn't seem to be a prerequisite for monoculture at all.

> the power of being able to still survive on pure nature's means

We haven't been able to do that since the dawn of agriculture. If modern agriculture disappeared tomorrow, the Cavendish plantations would not resemble Cavendish plantations very long, Panama disease or not.

The only problem I have with a "GMO Cavendish" is that it would likely be patented, which could create a company with some extraordinarily powerful IP, which is very dangerous. But that's a problem with the law, not GMOs per se.


Many of us that are considered anti gmo are more anti patent for food genes rather than of anti gmo. The developing world mostly has agricultural economy now Western companies are trying to horn in that as well. A few years ago an American company tried to patent and stop Pakistan and India from selling a rice variety called Basmati by modifing it genes and trying to patent it. When its come to gmo the trust deficit in rest of the world is not just about the science but of the western companies and their patents.

Literally all of the problems you mentioned existed before GMO was a thing. Companies have been patenting varietals since the 1930's. Patent trolling in agriculture is also quite old. E.g. the yellow bean patent debacle:

https://www.nature.com/news/2008/080507/full/453145b.html

GMO is tangentially related but few of the biggest overreaches in agricultural IP are directly tied to them.


Then don't call yourselves anti-GMO?

I didn't say we were anti-gmo rather we are labeled as anti-gmo despite our reservations being about the patenting systems rather than the science.

I choose to avoid GMO products (it's my choice, right?). To do that, I have to be able to distinguish them from non-GMO products. That means labeling; and if GMO promoters are lobbying against labeling (and they are), then I'm against the GMO promoters. Unless GMO products are clearly labeled, I favour a ban on importing them at all.

As far as genetic modification in the lab being indistinguishable from genetic modification the way farmers have always done it (cross-breeding), here's the difference, in a nutshell: farmers have no method for cross-breeding a potato with a jellyfish (or adding genes from bacteria, or whatever). That is, the lab technique permits technicians to effectively create new species.

Now I'm OK (in principle) with new species appearing on the shelves; but I don't want to eat them myself, until they have been tested with the same rigour as if they were novel medicines. My choice, you see. If the GMO products are smuggled onto the shelves in disguise, then what happened to my choice?


Or, to put it another way, you can be for (or against) the broader concept of social media, with (or without) being against Facebook, by name, but in a broader discussion, this subtle distinction is easily lost. I'm for GMOs but against Monsanto and their seed DRM.

My biggest concern is similar, that a GMO banana is intellectual property and I detest the thought of large companies preventing people from growing their own food.

The most likely way large companies would prevent people from growing bananas would be by not making GMO bananas, and just letting disease ruin all the other varieties (if some varieties were resistant, then how could the existence of GMO versions prevent people from growing those?)

> * A banana modified in a lab and one that is bred through selective breeding are both "GMO"*

Not really. The difference is that selective breeding takes a lot of time and for the species that we eat today we've had hundreds to thousands of years to observe if it harms us or not.

When new drugs or foods get approved for consumption, the tests being made are for how our body affect the eaten food, and the assessment being made is for how safe acute short term exposure is.

But we are not doing long term studies on safety, because those are super expensive. We basically don't know what happens with chronic exposure over decades. And plants in particular have toxins, as a natural defense against pests, and most of those toxins are harmless to humans, or removed via cooking (like what happens with legumes), however some toxins can have an effect on mammals and we won't notice it until we've had decades to consume that plant and maybe come up with cooking methods to deal with it.

Personally I'm not interested in being a lab rat.

> The lack of science education.

I think this goes on in both camps ;-)


I get that, but it's not like the body isn't accustomed to a wide range of food inputs. We know what chemical structures are deeply harmful to the body and what are digestible; assuming GMO variants are not totally different from the original we can rely on heuristics to determine their toxicity, can't we?

It seems a little silly to outright dismiss GMO foods as long as they do not deviate too far from their parents


You are making a case that is worth making and valuable, however:

> We know what chemical structures are deeply harmful to the body and what are digestible

Implying that nutrition is by and large a solved problem instead of a hugely moving target that is upended every ten years for knowledge of a completely different direction is very incorrect and harms the rest of that you are saying by proximity. Nutrition is not solved. We know what things will kill you for sure (and generally how fast), but things that kill you very slowly or that might very subtly be good for you are hard to measure and therefore not well documented.


>We know what chemical structures are deeply harmful to the body and what are digestible

No we don't, we only really start looking at new kinds of toxins when they start affecting us.

GMO have one or many gene flipped, as a result many things are affected at once but genetic engineers/companies will look at optimising what interests them and ignoring the rest of the effect for the sake of cost cutting/simplification/shorter time to market. (These things have affected civil engineering companies too, which make your bridges dangerous but bridges are much simpler to reason compared to a multicellular organism like plants and bridges don't reproduce or evolve on their own. The seeds will not be picked by intercontinental birds and dropped somewhere where they start displacing local varieties or evolve into something dangerous (toxic?) for humans. While bridges have small life, genetic modification can survive for a very long time.

Some changes induced by GMO process will take long time test.

By that time it would have spread to billions of humans, thanks to modern industrial process and globalization.

Heck, we can't reliably alter genes in humans which makes them taller then how can you be sure of GMO crops?

Genetic engineers look at correlations in genes then they try to flip some of them randomly and if they observe positive change in the feature they are optimizing, they call it success if it doesn't produce immediate negative effects.

GMO variety also isn't sterile, so it might evolve into something dangerous. Why it shouldn't? The genetic history of the plant which stopped it from being toxic to humans, encoded in its genes has now been edited out by genetic engineers.

GMO come from flawed understanding of how genes work. Most GMO supporters claim that the nutations we are inducing through GMO process are also capable of happening in nature on its own.

Sure, but genes not just carry info of function but genetic history too that's how we remember how to fight viruses/backterias. A person who has been burned by keep their hand on flame will not try the same second time, same way a planet which has mutated in past in favour of something which made it resistant and survive in nature will select against the feature which made it survive.

GMO people think mutations happen at random, without any peeking at past mutations (genetic history) which is incorrect assumption.


> selective breeding takes a lot of time and for the species that we eat today we've had hundreds to thousands of years to observe if it harms us or not

Pardon my ignorance, but how is this different from GMO? Sure, it took a while to get to that particular cultivar with selective breeding, but at some point we got there and started to scale up the production. Where's the guarantee that the last few mutations before scaling up were not harmful on the very long term? It's not that they ran long experimental trials before marketing the tangelo...


It seems like your argument works in reverse. Selective breeding-- who knows what changes you're making to the underlying food. When I taste a "cotton candy grape", there's likely a whole lot of chemical difference from a normal grape, in mostly-unknown-ways.

Whereas with GMO we can be assured it's a very small set of edits that we can more readily assess the safety of.


It doesn't work that way. Literally every fruit, legume and vegetable you're eating, that you're not hand picking from a forest, is the result of selective breeding and this has been going on since agriculture happened, from around year 10,000 BC at least.

It's not perfect, since the selective breeding we've been doing has been for diluting the proteins and increasing the energy per acre. And there are still plenty of concerns with various seeds we've been eating, like wheat, corn or soy, but interestingly these are also the playground for GMO research and that research hasn't been about making them safer for humans, but rather for increasing the yield, protecting patents and for reduced pesticide use ... which should raise further concerns about their safety ;-)

When I'll see GMOs meant for making consumption by humans safer, those are the GMOs I'm ready to buy into, but not until then.

---

> with GMO we can be assured it's a very small set of edits that we can more readily assess the safety of

I don't believe that we can readily assess their safety, because I've been interested in and studying nutrition and I know how science in this field works.

But if you know more on this subject, please provide details.


I'm just making a very simple argument: when David Cain cross-pollinated hundreds of thousands of grape plants to make a new flavor, there's a terrific amount of diversity and "newness" and some degree of opportunity for something slightly hazardous to be introduced.

Compare to someone making a CRISPR edit to alter a Cavendish protein to the form in other bananas that people have already been consuming in quantity for hundreds of years.

Why do you assess the former probability of harm to be so much lower than the latter?


I understand the idea of selective breeding but GMO is more than that. It's very possible to move genes from very different organisms that would never be possible via selective breeding. The ones that come to mind are the glow in the dark organisms that used genes from 2 different types of animals that could never breed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCPtDVnaQ1w

So no GMO does not equal selective breeding.


One alternative to GMO is to irradiate your organism until it randomly develops a mutation you like.

It's not "GMO" and isn't labeled as such, because it doesn't involve the same technical steps as inserting a fish gene into a tomato, or whatever, but you end up with an organism with de novo mutations that do... well, something, probably many things, and if you're lucky, something you want, that you can then use selective breeding to amplify. Voila, you've introduced a brand new, never-before-seen mutation, without any GMO.

Except it's stupid. It's an incredible amount of work, just to be able to produce something that isn't technically GMO, when you could reach in with CRISPR or whatever the new hot genetic tools are and do it much more close to exactly.


I think one thing people are worried about is simply unintended consequences.

Humans have always had confidence of mastery over nature and more often than not we screw it up.


I think people are using irrational thought processes to come to nonsensical conclusions. The anti-GMO business is feeling over reason.

Saying that you don't trust a scientist with only a tenuous grasp (because that is all we have) of what nutrition is or should be (and what things might be harmful over 10-30 years) to make grand and sweeping changes to how an organism works is not feeling over reason. It is a different form of risk-management, one that you might not agree with (and that's fine).

What if, instead of replacing the Gros Michel back when it got wiped out, we had been able to replace it with a GMO Gros Michel instead of the Cavendish. Why would a GMO Gros Michel seem more risky than the Cavendish- a completely different varietal, that is almost certainly more unlike the Gros Michel, nutritionally, than a GMO Gros Michel.

We switched the entire planet over from Gros Michel to Cavendish with basically no studies of nutritional impact or whatever, and it was fine. They're both bananas, bananas are basically similar to each other, they taste a bit different but they're fine.

Why be more afraid of a GMO Cavendish than whichever other varietal gets pulled out this time? A GMO Cavendish would be less change.


I think part of the problem is with what people are assuming.

There is in fact a large, obvious population of people who are emotionally scared of GMOs. Unfortunately, that group has given anybody who question GMOs a bad name.

This kind of thing is unfortunately true for many things in life.

And ironically, if what I am saying is true, it is the grandparent who, while accusing of irrational reasoning, has not reasoned this out.


Whenever I see anyone attempt to defend their anti-GMO positions, they inevitably devolve into vague "well, it might be bad". Since this is literally true of ANYTHING new, the focus on GMOs is being driven by some irrational subtext.

The point I outlined in my post is one that I have seen people who are not vocal advocates of GMO utter. It's a perfectly regular piece of reasoning and not "irrational subtext". I'd go so far as to say the irrational subtext here might be the fact that it is seen as some sort of personal failing to question something which would be very convenient if it was entirely safe (and was known to be safe).

Just because it is convenient and it works well in the areas that we can measure well does not mean it is actually safe or that we should embrace it uncritically.


No, it's an irrational subtext, since it "proves too much". Taken at face value, it stops all technological change. Since technological change has been enormously successful, the argument is obviously bullshit.

The sly move is to try to apply this "don't do it" principle to only GMOs (or some limited set of hot button topics that includes GMOs). This selective application is where the unreason slips in.


You have reduced my reasoning to ridiculousness by extrapolating it to a degree that I find to be frankly insane. My point was that we do not understand the field well and thus should not make sweeping changes because we can't understand the consequences. My next point was that this is a coherent stance even if it gets in the way of easy progress.

Frankly from your response I cannot find a reason to change my mind on this, because you have mostly avoided the subject by attacking my reasoning with your own flawed logic. I find it ironic that you are saying that people who advocate a more conservative stance on GMO are unreasoning or spouting "obvious bullshit" when what is in fact happening is that you are doing exactly what I already addressed: Being upset that this reasoning stops progress in a field you don't understand well, because it is inconvenient.


They're not exactly the same, no, but there is nothing that says that eventually those organisms would have a mutation that gave them the ability to glow in the dark. We just make it happen quicker with science. If they can survive with those genes from other species, than they could in theory mutate them too.

We bred bananas to be like they are, and then used clones thereafter. They never looked like Cavendish in nature. There is nothing stopping banana breeders from doing it again. And now we're stuck with a mono culture.

Why? Because there is something stopping the production of varietals.

Patents are stopping advancements from happening. Just like with corn, except things are worse with bananas.

That's the real problem. Not GMO or whatever other straw man. Mono-species fail in the end, and then we create new technologies to cover for it, instead of simply breeding new variants within the species - because patents and profitable monocultures.


> Patents are stopping variety from happening. Just like with corn, except things are worse with bananas.

How can the patents not have already expired? Bananas have been the same roughly all of my life, unless I'm wildly misremembering. Surely there is no way the Cavendish is still protected by patents.


Mostly the damage is already done. But at least there are new cultivars coming out sooner or later. Here's one: https://patents.justia.com/patent/PP28625

But how new is it? As I've alluded (it would take a full article to really get into this), even this new cultivar is... Cavendish. And it's patented. Just like all the other Cavendish bananas that comprise the only bananas you can ever find unless you happen to live in Southeast Asia and can find them in the wild.

BTW: Bananas you remember are not the bananas your grandparents would remember. There's a long history. The monoculture of bananas is fairly recent in terms of history, but for you and I, we've only ever known Cavendish.


We used to have a Gros Michel monoculture, and now we have a Cavendish monoculture. There's not a great candidate for the "next" monoculture, in that TR4 affects all the varieties that ship well.

And bananas, because we want seedless varieties, favor cloning which favors monocultures (both directly because they're, you know, clones; through slow propagation which in turn makes scaling a variety pretty capital intensive, etc.)


What are ladyfinger bananas, if not non-cavendish bananas available in supermarkets (so cultivated) in southeast Australia (so outside of southeast Asia)?

Sure, they're more expensive than cavendish so i only take them when regular bananas are unavailable. But they're functionally non-cavendish bananas available in a place they aren't native.


I didn't know until researching my reply here, that Canada (where I live) actually locally farms the mini Ladyfingers available in our markets. Talk about 180 degrees of separation.

Similarly they are expensive, and people mainly opt for the larger/cheaper Cavendish. I always thought the mini Ladyfingers are more child friendly both for size and for sweetness, but rarely see them outside of fancy fruit salads. It's still very much a mono-culture, even when there are outliers.

So yes, my black/white statement should have been more of a 90/10 fuzzy grey one.

There is very little (financial) incentive to go up against Cavendish in an attempt to compete, because anything you need to do to find a tasty cultivar with thicker skins and stable shipping/handling will continually run into Cavendish related patents in the process.

BTW: Sadly, even though the Ladyfinger bananas are distinct from Cavendish, they are equally susceptible to the same deadly plant diseases. If one disappears, so probably does the other. Our temporary diversion is back on track with the subject at hand.


Fruits are funny. Many of what we think of as normal fruits are actually weird hybrids that can ONLY be reproduced by cloning/grafting.

Most citrus, most apple varieties, anything "seedless"


Producing GMO food isn’t science. It’s engineering.

Science seeks to test new theories about the nature of reality, to improve human knowledge. It often relies on engineering to conduct experiment.

Engineering is for solving human problems at scale. Often based on scientific discovery, but not necessarily. Humans were selectively breeding food for years with no scientific theory of plant genetics.

And we kind of do not have the best track record with engineering things we can’t be sure of in the lab. Generally we do ok with tech, but bio engineering is much different.

What’s more the food industry has lied about what’s healthy for profit in the past. We have a habit of passing the buck to the next generation to cash out now.

Human avarice is enough for me to be against GMO given the plain track record (global warming, aforementioned lies by food producers, etc) of bullshit that was only found to be bullshit later.

That and I hate bananas.


While I agree that people should rely on science when determining the safety of food products, it's disingenuous to imply that selective breeding and GMO are the same thing, as it ignores the fact that many if not most GMO foods are transgenic with genes from other species and even kingdoms of life that would never find their way into the genome through selective breeding.

But you don't know that. Maybe they would randomly get that mutation in some generation that we would then breed for. All we're doing is speeding that up with science.

Probably only on a million year time frame. We've coated a decent portion of the Earth's crust in crops. It's all being irradiated by the sun all day long, decade after decade, but the mutations people want aren't always appearing naturally. Some changes appear to be extremely unlikely.

Which is probably good, or we'd all probably get weird cases of allergies from strange plant mutations.


How exactly would an apple "randomly" acquire a jellyfish gene?

The same way that fish eventually acquired the "lungs" genes.

//The same way that fish eventually acquired the "lungs" genes.

Which took a million years. But now watch out - we can do it in 4 hours. That's the difference.


That's not how it works. There are not one universal set of genes for "lungs". When two species develop a similar characteristic, the genes are still completely different.

And what is wrong with that? You think acid in your stomach performs DNA-analysis?

I wonder how that sentiment will change when people have no other choice. I can imagine now that it’s easy to say no to GMO bananas because there are still other varieties; it’s not something that people may see as directly affecting them. I think it’ll be a different story if non-GMO bananas become crazy expensive or non-existent.

It's easy to consider those that have different perspectives as plain disinformed, stupid, "uneducated" or anything along those lines but I would request you to be careful with that judgement. There are plenty of informed people who disagree with GMO for various reasons.

I'm open too but careful regarding GMO. It's clear the agricultural practices used in the US and China and in particular by the corporate giants are totally unsustainable and exploitative, often catching farmers in unexpected dependencies to buy new seeds or fertilizer/insecticide products each year. Not to speak of the monoculture, the negative impact on overall flora and fauna, etc. Often.the GMO crops are rather sensitive to specific conditions, leading to more such monocultures and the adaptation of agricultural lands to their specific cultivation (eliminating everything else in the process).

As much as you like to think you're scientific, science should be careful and jumping on every new plant that comes from a lab (no matter how promising) is not scientific but rather each plant should be field tested for several generations. Elwr don't understand genetics well. It's simply a lie to think we know the effects - we don't know what inserting genes from one plant into another does in the long term. Specifically, CRISPR & co are very imprecise and pretty much a matter of lucky shots, i.e. they normally insert much more than the intended genes. Moreover natural processes continue, so you get those plants pollinating other non-GMO strains. It's not like a website you can shut off - you introduce something into the environment and there's no way back.

See e.g. insect apocalypse and the nightmares Monsanto and it's likes have brought to smallholder farmers across the globe (promised big harvests but the seeds are castrated so that the farmers have to buy new ones each year), or the patent (!) lawsuits against farmers that have fields adjacent to GMO crops.

I would consider myself pro GMO, but only under the right conditions. There are plenty of other ways forward than just GMO - and we should try and use each path with care, not bet just on what is easiest. Moving away from the monocultures that caused these issues to begin with - rather than to go all in on mass-monoculture of new GMO crops - is a better way forward.


Transgenics is nothing like plant or animal husbandry. Your reductive head-pat is not only a deeply condescending Appeal to Authority, it's also lying.

The majority of the people 'afraid' of GMO are thinking of transgenics, not selective pressure. Some of the people thinking about selective breeding also have a point about loss of diversity (see corn and cutworms). You have to go all the way to the far end of the spectrum to find people like you're describing, which essentially makes it a strawman.


no one alive today is afraid of science. it's just that unbridled scientism zealotry seems to ignore second order and unintended consequences.

https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/genetically-modifi...


> The lack of science education. A banana modified in a lab and one that is bred through selective breeding are both "GMO", it's just that one is done in a targeted manner and the other relies on random luck in the mutations.

I've logged in just to say that this comment is so quintessentially HN, and it particularly entertains me to see these two sentences juxtaposed because of the lack of domain expertise that it belies.

There is indeed a material difference between genome engineering and breeding. In the former case, you might introduce a gene that expresses any arbitrary protein. For instance, you could introduce a gene that expresses a highly potent toxin, like ricin. That would surely be very bad! In the latter case -- when breeding for variants -- you would be hard pressed to get a castor bean to cross-breed with a banana. So the capabilities of molecular biology allow for a much wider range of possibilities than breeding, hence the importance of regulatory oversight and caution.

P.S. There has been a lot of talk recently about what's wrong with the culture on HN. I'll tell you exactly what it is: people write overly confident and flippant things far outside their areas of expertise. Many of you run websites and phone apps: you do not know much of anything about other areas. Why are you therefore writing about those topics on the internet with such feigned authority?


>This is the problem right here. The lack of science education. A banana modified in a lab and one that is bred through selective breeding are both "GMO", it's just that one is done in a targeted manner and the other relies on random luck in the mutations.

At this point anti-GMO == anti-science

People may have philosophical objections, but young earth creationists, climate change deniers, and anti-vaccine advocates all believe what they do primarily because of philosophical objections.


Cavendish banana are monoculture clones from the same original banana. That means that any disease that attacks one can attack all since the banana share the same dna and protective mechanism.

The solution is not to clone with the same dna. also not to use pesticides which kills bees and insects. Pesticide will not only kill bugs they will kill all insects a like.

“Cavendish bananas were named after William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire. Though they were not the first known banana specimens in Europe, in around 1834 Cavendish received a shipment of bananas (from Mauritius) courtesy of the chaplain of Alton Towers (then the seat of the Earls of Shrewsbury).” Source https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cavendish_banana


Or get people to eat local as much as possible. The only people at risk from being more malnourished due to a scarcity of Cavendish bananas are those whose land has been plagued by the monoculture.

And by the way https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/monkeys-bann... [Monkeys banned from eating bananas at Devon zoo]. I assume those were all Cavendish bananas.


The problem is that banana seeds are large and inedible and trying to eat a banana with seeds is very messy. Hence, triploid and cloning.

So, my wife is from SEA. I never bothered to look into the name of their bananas, nor do they know it by any other name, but they are delicious. They are small, and grow more in a straight line than a bunch. While a Cavendish is mostly subtle, these taste like real fruit, more hearty and definitely sweet. So, my question is, why are we in USA stuck with these dud bananas, even in the absence of the Gros Michel?

A short, recent discussion I posted on /r/AskScienceDiscussion...

"If Cavendish/dessert bananas get wiped out by some disease (e.g. Panama disease), how long would it take to cultivate a new dessert banana from wild growing options?"

https://www.reddit.com/r/AskScienceDiscussion/comments/c75ct...

P.S. For the casually curious, /r/AskScienceDiscussion is a more forgiving, less strict place to ask questions than /r//r/AskScience. It's more ask Bill Nye in a podcast than pose a perfect question to pass the scientist mod filter.


> Desperate, the predecessors of Chiquita and Dole switched production [from the Gros Michel] to a banana they knew to be resistant to Panama disease, despite its relatively bland flavor: the now-ubiquitous Cavendish.

I want to try the Gros Michel. What I'm eating is relatively bland?


It might be urban legend, but apparently banana-flavored candy imitates the flavor of the Gros Michel, which is why it doesn’t really taste like a “banana” as we know it.

A much repeated myth regarding the Gros Michel is the reason that artificial banana flavoring tastes so "strong" to the point of being "obviously fake" to modern consumers is its basis on the flavor of Gros Michel, vs the much milder Cavendish they are accustomed to. This is apparently just a myth, but regardless I guess some say Cavendish tastes like artificial banana.

http://hoaxes.org/weblog/comments/was_artificial_banana_flav...


> What I'm eating is relatively bland?

If you don't live in a tropical country, yes. Bananas in temperate countries taste like Styrofoam.

I don't know if this is a problem specific with the Cavendish or because the bananas aren't ripened in the plant, but in Africa and South America (and probably Southern Asia) bananas have a far more intense flavor. Same happens to guavas. Mangoes and passion fruit, however, keep the same strong flavor.


Since it's inevitable that the current bananas will collapse from this, maybe it'll speed acceptance of GMO products. People will ignore their unfounded fears once it starts affecting them.

People are already comfortable and used to other cultivars of other fruits. GMO isn't even necessary here, just other types of bananas.

From the article:

> Besides the Cavendish bananas that dominate modern supermarket shelves, residents of banana-producing nations rely on a multitude of local varieties, including plantains, for their food security. Panama disease TR4 has a notoriously broad host range, meaning it threatens nearly all of these varieties to some degree.

Unfortunately, pretty much all banana species are vulnerable. Even if Cavendish is the most-affected, replacing Cavendish with another cultivar isn't a complete solution. Other banana cultivars don't have the same properties, and breeding a replacement dessert banana that is resistant, and then spreading that cultivar (and hoping that it too doesn't fall prey) is not a trivial undertaking.

If a GMO solution can save the existing cultivars, which have established consumers, it's a better approach. Since all bananas are grown using monoculture grafting (because we long ago bred the seeds out), it's not as easy to produce new cultivars as with other fruits.


Related to the topic, I highly recommend this short documentary about the Cavendish banana and the deadly fungus affecting it: https://youtu.be/YkI3zkQ4WBo

Is the worry that they will just go away overnight all at once, but it just hasn't happened yet? Because the current price of bananas sure doesn't indicate a shortage.

Bananas are an important staple with many potential uses. A guy in Bali came up with a process that makes flour from green bananas. The resulting bread products are delicious. Far better than regular gluten free bread and better than regular bread for toast (amazing crispiness). Lots of cafes are using this bread to satisfy the ever growing hippie tourism trade.


"The banana is one step closer to disappearing" - seems to be overstating it. They mean the Cavendish Banana and therefore large scale Banana cultivation. However we could still have a variety of bananas, lower scale and have banana be more of a treat than a common food.

>>However we could still have a variety of bananas, lower scale and have banana be more of a treat than a common food.

Those that could afford the $XX / lbs price would.


It wouldn't be the only food like this, and nutritionally I think people can survive without bananas.

I'd miss em though. Nothing like frozen banana + milk blended.


What’s most scary is this. If the food can still be produced in a climate we have injured, will it even be nutritious? The answer is unfortunately no in most cases. Over farming leads to soil being turned over too much and plants that do not produce fruits and vegetables with vitamins. Another bad finding is high atmospheric carbon levels drive rice malnutrition. If rice then what else? And now a worsening climate is leading to plant extinction also. This is double bad news.

At least the soil issues can be fixed through regenerative practices, which also help mitigate climate change to some extent. Farmers should receive funding to safely transition to better practices.

Fun fact - bananas are berries.

Strange times for Berry Club. https://www.mrlovenstein.com/comic/643

Can anyone recommend a good book to learn more about the GMO debate?

would it help if banana plantations were not monocultures? would it stop the spread if other trees were in between

interesting video illustrating how corporations control US military action

I guess there is always banana nut bread !

how will we express the scale of something now?

> the epicenter of the global banana export industry

Sigh.



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gros_Michel_banana

> This variety was once the dominant export banana to Europe and North America, grown in Central America, but in the 1950s, Panama disease, a wilt caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense, wiped out vast tracts of Gros Michel plantations in Central America, though it is still grown on non-infected land throughout the region.

The song is from 1923, so likely no connection to the great banana blight, eh? Too bad, I thought so too.


I believe you're right, the song predates any widespread fungus issue with bananas. Would have been cool if the lyrics had been a satire / poke at the situation.

I did find the following note about the song:

> In 2008, The New York Times ran an op-ed, with the title "Yes, We Will have no Bananas", regarding the outcome of fungal diseases afflicting the Cavendish Banana

https://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/18/opinion/18koeppel.html

So we weren't the first to make the pun/connection - great minds think alike? :) I deserved the downvotes though, I knew it when I posted the flippant comment.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: