- For most Americans, bananas are synonymous with a particular variety called the Cavendish that may be in peril now.
- Tropical Race (TR) 4, a soil fungus that rots the Cavendish banana, emerged in the 1990s in Asian countries, where it has cost $400 million in banana crops in the Philippines alone.
- As its spread to Jordan and Mozambique was observed in 2013, scientists fear that TR4 will reach Latin America, where 70% of the world’s $8.9 billion-a-year worth of exported bananas grow.
If history repeats itself, then America's favorite fruit is seriously imperiled. A previous strain of a similar fungus essentially wiped out the Gros Michel banana — the most common banana in the U.S. until the 1950s. That's when brands like Chiquita introduced American consumers to the Cavendish banana.
While Chiquita is downplaying the risk now, some think there is cause to worry, as they estimate that TR4 is capable of killing as much as 85% of all bananas and plantain crops. In that case, the world will face a serious shortage of a crop that in some countries is a mainstay of nutrition. One possible solution may be a genetically modified banana, but given the general tendency to abhor GMOs, that's not likely to be embraced by the masses.