V.I.F. — Very Important Food
Bananas are one of the main food sources in the world. If disease were to wipe out bananas, a lot of people would starve. People in many countries depend on bananas for their meals.
For example, in America, each person eats an average of 25 pounds of bananas each year. But in parts of Africa, each person eats an average of 900 pounds per year. (One pound equals about three bananas.)
Although there is only one species of banana, there are about 1,000 varieties. Over thousands of years, people have created or grown new types.
All but about 20 to 30 of those 1,000 varieties are edible. Inedible varieties still grow in the wild with big, hard seeds. The edible bananas are all grown by people making cuttings.
Saving on costs
By sticking to one banana variety, companies save money. All the bananas ripen at the same rate, making shipping cheaper.
The banana you eat is probably a Cavendish, the top banana in America and Europe. It makes up 99 percent of all bananas exported, or sent from the country where they are grown.
However, people from other countries believe different varieties taste much better.
Different diseases are attacking the Cavendish in Asia. Experts are worried that this disease could spread to Africa and Latin America. If it does, we may no longer be able to get our favorite banana.
These diseases are carried in dirt and water, so they spread easily from crop to crop. Just a couple handfuls of contaminated dirt could spread the disease to healthy fields. A hurricane, for example, could blow contaminated soil to other countries.
A boy sells bananas in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.