Bananas may be extinct in 10 years: researchers
Date: Wednesday, January 22 2003
Topic: International News
Despite its phallic shape, the modern banana apparently hasn't had sex for years. Belgian Scientists say that bananas may go extinct in the next ten years, due to lack of genetic diversity, which makes them prone to attacks by diseases.
Pesticides are becoming ineffective and fungus are developing resistance very quickly. Modern bananas are sterile, seedless mutants - genetically old with little diversity. The fruit first propagated in the jungles of South East Asia at the end of last ice age.
It's apparently hard to develop genetic variance in asexually reproducing plants. Backcrossing - pollinating with wild plants - is possible but very difficult.
If worst comes to worst, a mass banana extinction may become the next potato blight, like the one which caused the Irish famine in 1840s and there is a similar danger for all monoculture crops.
Scientists are hoping to use biotechnology and genetic manipulation to save the fruit, finding disease-resistant genes from a heartier, non-edible banana variety and insert them in the edible ones.
Half a billion people in Asia and Africa depend on the banana to survive.