The Evolution and Threats to Bananas Throughout History

TLDR Bananas have a long and diverse history, with over 50 different species and a thousand subspecies. However, the popular Gros Michel banana was replaced by the Cavendish banana in the 1950s due to the Panama disease. Now, the Cavendish banana is facing a new threat from Tropical Race 4, leading researchers to explore genetic modification or crossbreeding to find a more resistant version.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 Bananas, which were popular for thousands of years, underwent a significant change in the late nineteenth century due to a pestilence, resulting in the bananas we eat today being different from those consumed before World War II.
02:21 Bananas come in various shapes and sizes, with over 50 different species and a thousand subspecies, and have a long history dating back to ancient times, appearing in writings from Southeast Asia, South Asia, and even encountered by Alexander the Great in India, before being brought to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese traders, and later becoming a major crop thanks to the United Fruit Company.
04:02 The Gros Michel banana, which became popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was the dominant banana grown for export worldwide, but it was susceptible to a fungus called Panama disease that could destroy entire shipments and warehouses.
05:44 The Cavendish Banana, which was resistant to Panama disease, became the dominant banana for export in the 1950s.
07:25 The Cavendish banana, which constitutes the majority of bananas for export, is now being threatened by a strain of Panama disease called Tropical Race 4, leading researchers to work on genetically modifying or crossbreeding a more resistant version of the Cavendish or possibly bringing back the Gros Michel banana.
09:07 Bananas are naturally radioactive due to the presence of potassium-40, but the radiation from one banana is only equivalent to 1% of the daily natural exposure to radiation most people receive, with a lethal dose of radiation being 35 million banana equivalent doses. Additionally, the difference between a banana and a plantain is that a banana is sweeter and can be eaten raw, while a plantain is starchier and usually needs to be cooked.
11:00 Bananas are a staple crop that was domesticated 10,000 years ago in Papua New Guinea and has become a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide.
Categories: History Education

Browse more History