Cross Cut Section of Dna Flower of Life Snopes

The humble banana most seems like a miracle of nature. Colourful, nutritious, and much cherished past children, monkeys and clowns, it has a favoured position in the planet’s fruitbowls. The assistant is vitally important in many regions of the tropics, where unlike parts of the establish are used for habiliment, paper and tableware, and where the fruit itself is an essential dietary staple. People across the globe appreciate the soft, nourishing flesh, the snack-sized portions, and the easy-peel covering that conveniently changes color to indicate ripeness. Individual fruit⁠⁠—or
fingers⁠⁠—sit comfortably in the human hand, readily discrete from their close-packed companions. Indeed, the banana appears most purpose-designed for efficient homo consumption and distribution. It is difficult to conceive of a more fortuitous fruit.

The assistant, however, is a freakish and fragile genetic mutant; ane that has survived through the centuries due to the sustained application of selective convenance by diligent humans. Indeed, the “miraculous” banana is far from being a no-strings-attached gift from nature. Its cheerful appearance hides a fatal flaw⁠⁠— i that threatens its proud place in the grocery basket. The banana’southward problem can be summed up in a single give-and-take: sex.

The banana institute is a hybrid, originating from the mismatched pairing of ii Southward Asian wild plant species:
Musa acuminata
Musa balbisiana. Between these ii products of nature, the former produces unpalatable fruit flesh, and the latter is far as well seedy for enjoyable consumption. Nonetheless, these closely related plants occasionally cantankerous-pollinate and spawn seedlings which grow into sterile, half-breed banana plants. Some ten thousand years agone, early man experimenters noted that some of these hybridized Musa diameter unexpectedly tasty, seedless fruit with an unheard-of yellowness and inexplicably amusing shape. They also proved an fantabulous source of carbohydrates and other important nutrients.

A seed-packed wild musa (banana)

A seed-packed wild musa (assistant)

Despite the hybrid’s unfortunate sexual impotence, shrewd would-exist agriculturalists realised that the plants could be cultivated from suckering shoots and cuttings taken from the underground stem. The genetically identical progeny produced this manner remained sterile, yet the new institute could be widely propagated with human assist. An intensive and prolonged process of selective breeding⁠⁠—aided by the variety of hybrids and occasional random genetic mutations⁠⁠—eventually evolved the banana into its present familiar form. Arab traders carried these new wonderfruit to Africa, and Castilian conquistadors relayed them onwards to the Americas. Thus the tasty new banana was spared from an otherwise unavoidable evolutionary dead-end.

Today, bananas and their close relatives, the starchy plantains, grow in a number of different varieties or
cultivars. Among temperate palates, the most familiar is the
Cavendish, a shapely and sweet-tasting dessert banana. This is the banana constitute in the supermarkets, splits, and milkshakes of the developed world. It is exported on an industrial calibration from commercial plantations in the tropics. Every Cavendish is genetically identical, possessing the aforementioned pleasant taste (which is somewhat lacking in more subtle flavours according to banana aficionados). They too all share the same potential for yellow curvaceousness and the same susceptibility to illness.

Although at that place are numerous other banana and plantain varieties cultivated for local consumption in Africa and Asia, none has the same worldwide appeal as the Cavendish. While these other varieties display more genetic variability, all come from the same sterile Musa hybrids which so delighted our forebears thousands of years ago. Likewise none of them have enjoyed the benefits of the frenzied gene-shuffling facilitated past sexual congress.

Stuck with the clunky, inefficient cloning of asexual reproduction, the sterile banana is at a serious disadvantage in the never-ending biological arms race between plant and pest. Indeed, it is a well-established fact that bananas are particularly decumbent to crop-consuming insects and diseases. A severe outbreak of banana disease could easily spread through the genetically compatible plantations, devastating economies and depriving our fruitbowls. Varieties grown for local consumption would also suffer, potentially causing mass starvation in tropical regions.

Banana bunches in protective isolation.

Assistant bunches in protective isolation.

This scenario may seem preposterous, but researchers all over the world are earnestly exploring the possibility. The custodians of the beloved banana are all too aware of the potential for a banana apocalypse⁠⁠— considering it has already happened in the fruit’s past. And the next fourth dimension could be much worse.

Until the middle of the twentieth century, nigh bananas on sale in the developed world belonged to the
Gros Michel
cultivar. These bananas were sweetness and tasty and didn’t spoil likewise quickly, making them eminently suitable for commercial export. One-time-timers contend that in flavour and convenience, the Gros Michel outshone even the current tiptop-banana, the Cavendish. However from the early twentieth century, large plantations of ‘Big Mike’ proved increasingly fertile ground for a fungal foliage affliction known as Panama affliction. Affected crops would shortly deteriorate into rotting piles of unprofitable vegetation. Every bit the century progressed, commercial growers institute themselves in a drastic race confronting time, making doomed attempts to institute new plantations in disease-free areas of rainforest before the fungus arrived.

In the 1950s the Vietnamese Cavendish came to the rescue. Banana companies delayed switching from Big Mike for as long as possible due to the necessary changes in growing, storage, and ripening infrastructure, and many producers teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. As Big Mike started pushing upward daisies, assistant plantations frantically reconfigured, and by the mid 1960s the changeover was largely complete. The distinct⁠⁠—and now extinct⁠⁠—gustatory modality of Big Mike was speedily lost to the fickle public retentivity. Cavendish was king.

Information technology has washed a sterling job in the intervening years, even so now the Cavendish is starting to struggle in its own contest against contagion. In the 1970s a disease named Black Sigatoka was beaten back with enthusiastic applications of pesticide, simply more recently a new strain of the original bane of the assistant has threatened the plantations. Since 1992 a vigorous, pesticide-tolerant strain of Panama disease has been wiping out bananas⁠⁠—including previously resistant crops of Cavendish⁠⁠—in Southeast Asia. It has however to reach the large commercial plantations in Latin America, but well-nigh banana-watchers believe that this is only a matter of fourth dimension.

A navel orange and its underdeveloped siamese twin

A belly button orange and its underdeveloped siamese twin

Opinions differ on how long the Cavendish can survive the new onslaught, and on the best way to tackle the threat. This time, unfortunately, there is no obvious back-up variety waiting in the wings. So far, banana science has provided scant few approaches for improving affliction resistance. One method involves the traditional techniques of selective breeding: although banana plants are clones, very occasionally they tin can be persuaded to produce seeds through a painstaking process of manus pollination. Merely ane fruit in three hundred will produce a seed, and of these seeds only i in three volition take the correct chromosomal configuration to let germination. The seeds are laboriously extracted by straining tons of mashed fruit through fine meshes. Research stations in commercial banana growing countries, such equally Republic of honduras, engage big squads of assistant sex workers for such tasks, and to screen the new plant varieties for favourable characteristics.

Another fruit subject to such human-assisted reproduction is the ubiquitous umbilicus orangish. Information technology, too, was the consequence of a serendipitous mutation, this one from an orange tree in Brazil in the mid-1800s. Each orange on this particular tree was found to have a tiny, underdeveloped twin sharing its skin, causing a umbilicus-like formation opposite the stem. These foreign siamese citruses were much sweeter than the fruit of their parent trees, and delightfully seedless. Since the new tree was unable to reproduce naturally, caretakers amputated some of its limbs and grafted them onto other citrus trees to produce more than of the desirable fruit. Fifty-fifty today navel oranges are produced through such botanical surgery, and all of the navel oranges everywhere are direct descendants⁠⁠—essentially genetic clones⁠⁠—of those from that original tree.

As for the Cavendish, its final best hope may lie in genetic modification (GM). The Academy of Leuven in Belgium is a world centre in banana inquiry due to its colonial connections with Africa. Belgian banana scientists have get skilled in using DNA-transfer to innovate disease-resistance genes directly into the institute’s genome. These less labour-intensive methods promise a way to develop stronger, fitter, happier and more productive bananas.

"Fruity Flash" by José Mª Andrés Martín. Prints available.

“Fruity Flash” by José Mª Andrés Martín. Prints available.

In 2007, Ugandan field trials of the first Leuven uber-assistant were announced, although public distaste of the thought of GM foods may impede its long term success. And in Republic of honduras, researchers accept adult a assistant cultivar named ‘Goldfinger’ through traditional selective breeding methods. Although it has enjoyed some public acceptance in Australia, it suffers from the drawbacks of a distinctly unlike, non-Cavendish season, and a longer maturation time. If nothing else, these advances offering promise that science will one twenty-four hours overcome the unfortunate sexual inadequacies of the assistant. Permit united states promise so, otherwise the resulting bananageddon will ensure that the Cavendish goes the way of Large Mike, and hereafter generations of fruit lovers will have to find some other curved yellow food to complement their ice cream.


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