Fungal diseases are devastating banana crops in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and some scientists are saying that the banana — dietary staple for about 500 million people — is threatened with possible extinction. According to The New Scientist, “some parts of Africa now face the equivalent of the Irish potato famine.” So will the banana go extinct in ten years, as the U.K.’s Guardian warns?
Most likely not, and biotechnology could be part of the reason. The day after it was announced that global plantings of biotech crops grew 12% in 2002, one firm said it can apply its expertise in developing genetically enhanced, pest resistant potatoes to the banana’s plight. Meanwhile, an African editorial calls for more lenient biotechnology laws so that a “very extensive banana research project” in Kawanda can employ genetic science to help preserve the world’s most popular fruit.