The End of the Banana

As I ate the yellow fruit, the question of how it reproduced popped into my mind. Just how does a banana reproduce anyway? As I surfed the internet to find the answer, I got sidetracked by some articles proclaiming the end of the banana.

It seems that the end of commercial bananas — those sweet, tasty ones sold in supermarkets of most developed countries — is coming soon.

You can read more about it in this article called Yes, We’ll Have No Bananas – Thanks to Selective Breeding, our Favourite Fruit can Neither Reproduce nor Defend Itself from Disease.

Bananas reproduce asexually, meaning there’s no male or female. Humans reproduce sexually, so the genetic code of both the male and female are mixed. In the case of the banana, the genetic code of the parent plant is essentially the same as the child plant, meaning they are more or less clones of each other.

So if the parent plant is susceptible to a disease, the child plant will be susceptible to it as well, since its genetic make-up is very similar.

The following is from the article I referenced above:

When humankind first encountered this fruit thousands of years ago we were probably not impressed by the almost inedible giant wild bananas. Historic mutations, rare and accidental, produced seedless bananas through chromosome triplication. Ancient humans focused on these seedless, pollen-less mutants to generate progressively more edible crops. Eventually, edible banana flesh retained only a few vague traces of the viable seeds once carried in the ancestral wild stock.

Ancient plant breeders grew edible bananas by grafting sterile mutants onto wild stems. This process was repeated for thousands of years to produce the emasculated, sterile — and defenceless — plantation banana that currently feeds millions of people globally.

Is the end of the banana near?

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