This are indeed troubled times for the bananas. The health benefits are well-known to many people. There is trouble on two fronts. I will dwell on each of them separately for the purpose of clarity:
There is no doubt about it; the spread of the business cuts across all the continents of the world. It is a known fact that banana production has grown into a big industry. It has become a money spinner for those who are involved in the industry. Close your eyes and imagine the dilemma of those that have invested in the industry in times like this when the industry is troubled. This is the beginning of the pains we are talking about in the banana industry.
Now, in the same token, as many people are earning their wages in this industry, consider the loss of jobs that will follow when things get bad in the industry. You can imagine what this will lead to in the society at large. There will be a predictable increase in social vices. And what about the job losses? For somebody who has been productively engaged to be thrown into the unemployment market- that is not what anyone would wish for.
I will dwell more on the human angle. The benefits of bananas are so great, and that explains the reason why the problems in the industry are making a big headline today. To say the truth as it is, a problem in this sector affects the very fabric of human health. For more clarity, consider the following and meditate on them:
Your food is your medicine. Many illnesses in the world today are caused by the food we eat. One such food is plantain flour. Though this commodity is cheap and affordable, many do not know the health benefits that can be derived from it. Now that this industry is troubled, there is a problem on our hands to grapple with. Let me highlight some of the great benefits that you can get from bananas with a view to let you know the seriousness of the problem at hand.
The benefits of bananas to human health are well-known to all and sundry. When you look at the problem currently being faced by the industry and you weigh it against the benefits that one can derive from it, then you will agree with me that we have a problem on our hands to grapple with.
Transportation is one of the problems faced in the industry. The nature of most available species is that they cannot withstand traveling long distances without spoiling. In most cases, therefore, before the banana gets to the end user, it would have lost its health values. In some extreme cases, these bananas become useless and unfit for human consumption. Wastes are therefore recorded, which is not encouraging those involved in the business.
As such, Cavendish came into the picture. With this species, there is no issue with transportation. It can withstand long distances on the road and overseas and still maintain its quality to the end user. Just when everybody is heaving a sigh of relief, another problem of a bigger dimension than that of transportation came up. The issue now is that of fungi attack.
Why is this industry facing so many troubles? There is trouble on the transportation front, a trouble that can consume the entire industry if care is not taken. Just when Cavendish is filling the gap of meeting up with the demanding needs of the people, this mortal blow has been dealt to it. Who will save this industry? Who will save mankind by delivering Cavendish from the clutches of this killer fungus?
A lot of efforts have gone into getting a soft landing for all the problems being encountered in the industry. Everything points in the direction-just in one direction. For every idea, there will be those that want to think differently. There is freedom of expression the world over, and this is playing a role in the industry which we believe will not do the industry any good.
The solution has been a source of fierce contention. Imagine some set of experts claiming they have gotten a clear solution to issues affecting the industry; then before you know it, another set comes up to claim that the solution is not good for the overall health of you and l. Can you place that?
That is the plight of the industry that will likely make it go into extinction if the case is not handled properly and with the maturity it rightly deserves. Apart from the primary problem faced by the banana itself, interests in the industry are speaking with conflicting tunes and it will not do the industry any good. It will not help the plight of those who cherish bananas.
THE GENESIS OF THE PROBLEM
Bananas have reached an all-star status to the extent that its consumption is greater than that of the apple in some countries, in America for instance. The brand that has been stealing the show is the yellow Cavendish. This is the delight of global food distributors for some very obvious reasons:
It ripens rather slowly which makes it a very good bargain for global food distributors. Haulage from one country across to other continents becomes very easy because it will not spoil easily. It is brisk business for exporters because they are guaranteed quality delivery to the final end user.
Another factor going well for this species is its very high rate of yield. It is therefore economically profitable for those that trade in it, as well as for the growers. We have stated to some extent the benefits that people can derive from bananas, either eaten as it is or processed in one form or the other.
The people that know about the health benefits of bananas are increasing with each passing day. That explains the astronomical rise in the acceptance of bananas in the food industry. When demand rises, the forces of supply will adjust in such a way as to balance the status quo. This has been the case in the banana industry. Then from nowhere, there was a explosion. When lightning strikes, it leaves in its wake tales of woe- the banana industry has become a victim.
The problem revolves around a nasty and dangerous fungi called: TROPICAL RACE 4 (TR4). This fungus has proved incurable; it has defied every remedy thrown at it. The banana industry is the worst for it. The fortunes have suddenly been reversed. Cavendish, which has been the beautiful bride of both growers and exporters, is gradually disappearing from the market. How can you possibly place this: there is growing demand. People are out there waiting to buy. On the other hand, there is a force holding back the growth and subsequent supply of Cavendish. A crisis situation will definitely set in.
There is a visible void in the market. The consumers are not getting their delicacy. The hitherto happy dealers in Cavendish are now faced with a reversal of fortunes. There is great lamentation in an industry that has gained worldwide appeal. That is the poser for the world and to those involved in gene bananas-we will come to gene bananas later on.
Researchers confirmed that this incurable affliction of the banana industry is coming from a single clone. They proposed a remedy: the only option out is to quarantine infected bananas. But then, the bigger problem lies in the establishment of the fact that the fungi can last for 50 years in the soil. Can we wait for 50 years for the fungi to die before growing Cavendish? Such is not in the favor of any one. That is the real issue afflicting the Cavendish species, which has grown so wide in popularity across the continents of the world.
Experts in the industry have shifted their focus from the Cavendish in a desperate attempt to save the industry. And on what theory are they working? It is very simple, they have known the fungi, studied it and the potency of the destruction it can cause on bananas. Their approach, which is simple logic, is to try gene bananas that will produce an entirely different species of banana. The target is to get a breed which can withstand the fungi so as to ensure the survival of an industry that has been hit by a disease capable of taking it into total extinction.
The process is simple. The first approach involves the insertion of a TR4 resistant gene from wild banana species into the Cavendish. This attempt took 12 years of diligent, painstaking research efforts before Dale’s research team arrived at this happy conclusion to save the Cavendish. The research was funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.
The second, which equally holds great promise, is based on the internal mechanism of Cavendish. There is a gene in the Cavendish which permits the TR4 to cause havoc. What the researchers did was simply turn off that gene, thereby incapacitating the TR4-Paper published in November 2015 in the journal of PLOS Pathogens. The idea sounds great and the researchers are confident that the system in the first and second forms of approach will deliver on their expectations.
With this soft landing, and when we are about heaving a sigh of relief, GMO haters are throwing some barbs into the aforementioned solution. An attempt in 2014 to provide vitamin A fortified bananas to Africans who were in dire need of the health benefits from the fruits was met with stiff opposition from haters of GM crops. Their take on this type of crop is the fact that GM crops are not safe for human consumption. The argument boils down to the fact that there is no consensus that GM crops are safe for human consumption. The fact is clear, gene edited crops are different from GMO crops. Unlike the latter, the former is safe for human consumption.
Can you see the great challenge that this industry has been battling with over the years? Though GMO crops are bad, they can be redeemed by using gene editing tools. This has been the lot of a once popular and thriving industry that has been hit with a reversal of fortunes which, if not well-handled, can lead to the extinction of the industry. The problems seem unending.
With the looming stalemate and a strong desire to salvage the industry, researchers have proposed another theory; if nothing at all, it is meant to accommodate the interests of the haters of GMO bananas. The plan is to abandon the Cavendish entirely. There are dozens of other bananas which are smaller than the Cavendish. They are grown in Central America and South East Asia.
Taking a look at the choices available here, there are at least 500 banana cultivars around the world, but it could really be up to double that amount. There are about 75 other wild species to choose from. They are great and very tempting. But then, there is another challenge on our hands. Will there be a ready switch to this species away from the popular Cavendish?
Business is all about making gains. It is all about appeal; the wider the appeal of Cavendish to the people, the better the dividend to the cultivators and the exporters. Will these other variants be globally accepted? Is it worth the shift? Will the popularity be as high as it is with Cavendish? The industry is now at a crossroads. First, it was a problem that defiled possible solutions. The solution was found. The usefulness of the hybrid Cavendish became another big issue. That has been the worrisome state of the industry ever since the unfortunate incident of TR4. The situation in the industry for now has become a cause of great worry.
There is no problem without a solution. When there is a will, there will always be a way out of any perceived problem. This applies to the issues in the banana industry. There is this saying that the devil you know is better than the saint you have never met before. Cavendish on its own has been known by the people. They have adapted to it. It has worldwide mass appeal.
It has great economic advantages over many other species. The yield is economically tempting, a high yield that every investor will want to put his money into. No transporter will shy away from taking up the business of transporting it because it can withstand long hours of haulage. What more can anyone ask for? Gene editing is by far better and safer than any other method that you can think of in the present moment.
Haters of gene editing should see reason, and they should allow it to prevail. Come to think of it, the problem lies with TR4; of the two solutions, there is no great harm in either of them. They should be reminded of the fact that when consumers make a choice on a commodity, as is the case with Cavendish, it will be difficult if not practically impossible to make them see the reasons for a change. Give it to GMO Cavendish, there are no reported cases of issues among the consumers.
The market is already there. The commodity is there in great abundance-all thanks to the tools used in gene bananas. What would stop driving life back into the industry? What should stop the banana industry from gaining back its lost glory? The results of diligent research findings took 12 years before a conclusion was drawn. They are experts in the field; there should be no reason to doubt their competence.
Think of the large investments in the Cavendish industry. Think of those loyal customers that has kept faith in this species of banana. Then it should clear that gene editing should get all the backing that it needs to flourish so as to save the banana industry. The population is increasing with every passing day; the fact that the yield of this species is great will balance up any perceived crisis that may want to rear its head in the industry.
The only way to make bananas readily available is through encouraging the efforts of producing improved plants by using gene editing tools. In times like this when there is global economic meltdown, the way out is through gene bananas. The opportunities are huge. Any investment in the industry will be an instant hit if you make use of gene editing tools.
If we do not want to risk food shortages in the sector, then the best bet is to go for a brand that is readily available. The world is aware of the usefulness of bananas to overall health. This much was highlighted in brief statements above, that awareness has triggered an interest in the consumption of bananas. And since there are issues with the natural Cavendish, gene Cavendishes will easily be a sure solution to all the problems raised.
In any business venture in life, there are bound to be ups and downs; challenges of varying dimensions will come. Thanks to the invention of tools of gene banana, the industry is on the rise again; it should rest the case for this once thriving industry to regain back its place of pride. Enough of these contentious issues, though. The consumers are waiting; the entrepreneurs involved in the business want to get their business back.
The appeal is: let haters of GMO sheath their swords and allow the banana industry to move forward. Any hatred for GMO which is extended to the tools of gene bananas will make the world kiss the banana industry goodbye.
Image from flickr by CIAT