It was early this morning when my mobile phone rang. The lady at the other side of the line was calling on behalf of a national public radiostation. And wanted to know my opinion about the following news issue: bananas are going to be extinct and what was my opinion about that. Surprised about the fact that she called me, she explained that she realizes that many athletes are eating bananas while exercising or after exercise. So being known for dealing with sport nutrition she thought that this lack of bananas in the future would have an impact on exercise. Now my first thought was this was a kind of joke, you know, the candid camera or candid microphone-thing.
But no, she was serious about her question, also asking the same question to producers of baby foods and the people in zoo’s who take care of e.g. the chimpanzees. This since it appears that two strains of fungus (the Panama’s disease or Fusarium oxysporum and the black sigatoka or Mycosphaerella fijiensis ) are threatening the production of the world’s favourite fruit. But as a matter of fact this news is rather old, the issue has been brought up already 5 years ago at least.
Now there is see the problem with chimps, I do not know if chimps are as dependent on bananas as the koala’s on eucalyptus of the panda’s on bamboo shoots. But for athletes: no, not really for a fast replenishment of carbohydrates and potassium, one can also eat figs, dates, raisins, or apples.
But for me the problem is a more philosophical one, that might shows some other things:
-our continuing fight with Mother Nature is far from over and we can’t always win. Primitive organisms like fungi, can mutate and more important, they have all the time in the world. They or their offspring, so to say, virtually live forever. Waiting for opportunities, in the meanwhile working on better solutions for their survival. They are not sentimental in seeing their contemporaries die from anti-fungal agents. They just wait, regroup, tinker and attack again when time is right.
-it also shows that our drive to completely control and “optimalization” of our natural environment by cutting rainforest to build large mono-culture plantations for bananas, palm oil of soy, is a short-sighted action. Contrary to a lonely banana tree in the forest, a banana plantation without biodiversity, which means other surrounding plants and their micro-environment like plants, bugs or other fungi, must be a feast for a fungus like this. Globalisation also means that banana’s need to be exported all over the world, which is a great means of transport and seeing the world for these fungi.
Now we have heard this before: bees will soon be extinct too, and 50 years ago another fungus almost annihilated the banana. And still we are eating them. So yes, we can hope, but only hope that human intellect and ingenuity will once again will come up with a predictable short-term solution and save the planet from becoming banana-less.