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Your Favorite Banana Is Facing Extinction As Deadly Fungus Spreads

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By Dominique Mosbergen, HuffingtonPost, SouthFloridaReporter.com, Dec. 2, 2015 –  One of the world’s most popular fruits may go extinct — yet again.

Before 1960, your grandparents and great-grandparents were eating better bananas. Called Gros Michel, they were tastier, bigger and more resilient than the bananas found in supermarkets worldwide today.

It has a more robust taste,” said Dan Koeppel, author of “Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World” of the yummier yellow fruit. “It’s more creamy.”

So why can’t we too enjoy the robust creaminess of the Gros Michel, once the world’s export banana? Turns out, the species went virtually extinct in the 1960s thanks to an invasive and incurable fungus that wiped out most Gros Michel plantations around the world.

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That explains how the Cavendish — the blander banana we now eat — grew in prominence. It tasted worse and was less hardy than the Gros Michel, but the species seemed able to resist the fungal invasion, known as “Panama disease.”

That is, it was able to.

Now, a newer, more virulent strain of Panama disease is wreaking that same havoc on the Cavendish and experts fear the banana we know and frequently devour may meet the same fate as the Gros Michel.

According to a study published on Nov. 19 in the journal PLOS Pathogens, the newer strain of the disease, known as Tropical Race 4, has been spreading like wildfire across Cavendish plantations around the world.

And, worryingly, no one seems to know how to stop it.

Tropical Race 4 has actually been plaguing the Cavendish for several decades, but largely contained to East Asia and Southeast Asia.

Since 2013, however, Tropical Race 4 has spread to areas in several continents, including parts of South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Australia despite efforts to contain the disease, the study said.

“This research demonstrates that the quarantine measures and information provided around the globe apparently have not had the desired effect,” noted study co-author Gert Kema, a banana expert at Wageningen University in The Netherlands, per a news release.

Quarantine measures are said to be the the only known way to combat Panama disease. The lethal fungus travels up the plant’s roots and infests entire plantations. Plots are then contaminated for many years.

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