Fungus could threaten world’s banana supply
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By Phyllis Stark. CREATED Apr 22, 2014
The world’s banana supply is under attack from a fungus that threatens to wipe out the variety of the fruit most popular in America.
"It's a very serious situation," Randy Ploetz, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Florida, tells CNBC. Ploetz is credited with first discovering, in 1989, the strain of Panama disease, called TR4, that now “may be growing into a serious threat to U.S. supplies of the fruit and Latin American producers,” reports CNBC, which quotes Ploetz as saying, “There's nothing at this point that really keeps the fungus from spreading.”
While there are nearly 1,000 varieties of bananas, the most popular is the Cavendish, which makes up about 95 percent of global banana exports and is the one most Americans buy in supermarkets.
“But now the Cavendish . . . is dying from the fungus strain Ploetz found,” CNBC reports. “The strain has hit the banana crop in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The worry is that it will spread to Central and South America—where the U.S. gets the vast majority of its bananas.
“The problem has gotten so bad according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO], that countries that grow bananas have been warned to step up monitoring, reporting and prevention in order to tackle what it calls ‘one of the world's most destructive banana diseases, and threatens the income of millions of people,’” CNBC reports.
Bananas are grown in more than 150 countries and are cthe eighth most important food crop in the world, according to the FAO.