Currently the banana is in great peril to the numerous banana maladies facing it, such as Panama disease, Black Sigatoka, and Bunchy Top. The need to produce greater amounts on less land, as well as increased pesticide use to fight deadly banana illnesses continue to plague the industry. Its greatest threat however, addressed by Koeppel is the aversion to bioengineering, the banana’s lasting chance for survival. Because of the genetic makeup of a banana and its inability to reproduce on its own, let alone the issue of breeding the ideal banana to meet various criteria trademark to the fruit (duration of shelf life, hardiness, and of course flavor), it is wholly reliant upon human assistance in continuing efforts to create a disease resistant banana that will outlast its predecessor (prior to the Cavendish variety, was the Gros Michel). In Westernized cultures, many loved recipes and treats use bananas: in developing and third world nations bananas are the sole source of sustenance. Finding the desired banana is equivalent to finding buried treasure at sea. It requires enormous patience and years of trial and error. Fortunately there are labs and scientists who are committed to the cause of ensuring banana’s longterm existence. However, what has hindered these efforts is not directly anyone’s fault but in misaligning the dangers of bioengineering and applying this information to all types of food.
In order to successfully breed an ideal banana meeting all the above requirements, is to approve of biotechnology and its benefit to bananas. Only recently has Uganda allowed for engineered bananas to be tested outside labs and greenhouses, but on only a few acres of land. As banana scientist and researcher Rony Swennen explains, “bananas need biotechnology,” especially of the Cavendish and its survival. “I don’t see any other way to save it.” Undeniably this is a difficult dilemma, in using controversial methods in order to secure bananas from becoming obsolete. Since testing bio-engineered, genetically modified bananas outside labs or greenhouses is not allowed, implicates that the tremendous scientific work involved are only backup measures. Treating the efforts of banana scientists as mere emergency means may lead to disastrous, worldwide consequences. Whether their efforts will produce an upcoming “perfect fruit” only time will tell, yet in the meantime the maladies continue to beset bananas very existence, let alone the preservation of the world’s most important, not so simple fruit.
By revolutionizing one aspect of even a single food crop can entail enormous positive results in an unrealized way. Perhaps in the least, increase motivation to not only be mindful of environmental causes, but to gain actualized knowledge of where food originates, how it lands at the supermarket, who the buyers are, what price fairness means, and what a food item represents before it is enjoyed. This is where necessary reform and attention needs to be- it is not just an environmental concern, this is a human concern. The emphasis is not only on the potential harms of a plastic six-pack ring and its final destination (a landfill, we know this by second grade) but where a certain country is located, who those people are, who is behind their job to harvest the fruit? What do phrases like, price fixing, bioengineering, or food politics… mean? In addition, the vocabulary involving the most basic tenants of farming and how food is “generated” is in fact disturbingly unknown or grossly inaccurate. Food is not generated. A banana is not plucked off a banana tree. Koeppel demonstrates this so well in his book. Even more so, a banana isn’t simply “plucked” there is an exacting science behind it, one that the average consumer has no idea. This is the unfortunate truth, but hope exists in the possibilities that are gained through education concerning bioengineering and the longterm benefits it offers.
We can not be oblivious or choose to ignore the reality of the banana’s precipitous fate. There needs to be greater accountability on the part of both consumers and corporate executives. It is ultimately a unified effort to stave future crisis in the banana industry and support sustainable resource causes that will protect one of the most important sources of food. Changing detached attitudes that make Chiquita, Dole, and Del Monte unassuming brand names in grocery stores and homes can enact purposeful thoughts, which lead to action. There is a certain amount of responsibility imparted onto the consumer but even that is not the answer to effectively making changes in the food chain. Corporations and its leaders need to have an incentive aside from their bottom line to offering equitable solutions to the fragile balance of ecosystems and the people who rely on their existence. Realizing the sheer weight of a single crop on humanity, such as the banana, is important to bring necessary and careful alterations at all stages of the food chain.
The sticker of a banana is as ubiquitous as its under a dollar per lb. price, usually either Dole, Chiquita, or Del Monte are the most common brands in U.S. grocery stores. What the sticker itself advertises is an unprecedented history of worker exploitation, company tactics, and even political corruption. Since the beginning, the banana industry has depended on cheap labor and acquiring unlimited amounts of land, usually with foreign government cooperation/military force to keep costs low and make the greatest profit. We have come to rely on this expected, reliable banana price at the store when in reality it has undergone far costlier consequences since arriving there. How does a fruit imported from such faraway places retain its low price year round? Through early innovation efforts in shipping and creating a standard formula still used today, the banana companies ensured an affordable tropical fruit available all year to be enjoyed to your heart’s content. This food production wonder is achieved by working on an international level, having control over transportation and distribution, and dominating land and labor in foreign countries. In many of these poor countries that are the world’s largest producer of bananas, the conditions for workers are as primitive as when the company arrived to their lands. Watch this clip from the documentary “BANANAS” revealing the downside to maximizing profits at the expense of human livelihoods:
Source: Seattle Times
Bananas are becoming slowly eradicated through disease, over cultivated lands, and a greater dependence upon chemical usage. It is the simplest of fruits with the heaviest responsibility of feeding hundreds of millions of people around the world, whose existence depends on the banana over more common staples such as potatoes or rice. Today, the most commonly eaten banana available in U.S. stores is called the Cavendish. But the original type of banana Americans ate was called Gros Michel- hardier skin, better tasting, and sweeter. This banana survived only fifty years through 1960 due to the discovery of Panama Disease. How did bananas manage to come back? This becomes even more amazing upon learning of the fruit’s unique plight: bananas are sexless. Every banana is identical to the other, and makes for unbelievable challenges to create a new banana resistant to disease. It is only through biotechnology that bananas have been sustained this long, and remains their only chance for survival. The very solution, and only solution, ensuring bananas survival is the one Westernized society is collectively against employing, that is genetic modification methods. Nature is so cruel!