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Bananas face extinction

Stored under Caption This!GamesMiscellaneousNewsRecipesRelated EBay AuctionsReviewsVideosVisual Stimulation on May 31, 2006

Bananas, the globe's most popular fruit and the fourth most important food crop overall, could become extinct if new hybrids resistant to disease are not introduced in the very near future.

This is the stark warning to come from the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation, which stressed that the problem lies in the fact that virtually all international trade in bananas is dependent on just one variety “Cavendish“ and that modern cultivars have to be bred by cuttings.

Moves are now being made to develop a gene pool of wild varieties, particularly those which originate in India, the world's biggest producer of bananas accounting for over 20% of the world harvest.

Meanwhile, banana production in Latin America is under threat from Tropical Panama Disease Race 4. This fungus has already wiped out the Cavendish variety in Asia and had serious repercussions on the economies of Indonesia, Taiwan, Malaysia and northern Australia.

Given this background scientists are now looking at the development of new varieties by genetic engineering. This is significant since this type of banana is the most popular in both the United States and in various countries in Europe.

The sector as a whole is already facing problems with Black Sigatoka, which has had a knock on effect on both production and exports.

In spite of this, the region as a whole is facing a boom in farm exports up by over 20% in 2005 alone. Much of this is due to exploding demand from India and China.

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