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Dole bananas coupon
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It first showed up in Panama—a blight that wilted leaves and infected fruits until the entire plant toppled over and died, usually before it could bear any fruit. As you undoubtedly guessed, the pestilence in question is none other than Panama disease, Race 1. As whole plantations failed, United Fruit and others made the obvious choice: they picked up and moved somewhere else in Latin America.
But the blight followed.
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And then to Nicaragua, then Colombia and then Ecuador. By , 77 years after it had appeared, Panama disease had wiped the Gros Michel out of every export plantation on the face of the planet.
Natural reproduction is bad for short-term profits. The way to grow a consistent product at yields that achieve economies of scale is to stamp out the risks of diversity and imperfection that happens when genes reshuffle. To boost profit, you then grow that crop to the exclusion of less valuable species. These things come at a cost, though. Just as their genetic similarity makes for cheap, large-scale production, it also prevents monocrops from adapting to attack from pests or disease.
Other disastrous consequences of monocrops include that farmers soak their crops in ever-increasing amounts of harmful chemicals and that this scale of growing is incredibly taxing on the environment. Introduced to Ireland two centuries earlier, the potato had by the early s become a staple crop for farmers, a principal source of food for the poor and a major fodder crop for livestock. The vast majority of Irish farmers were planting a single potato species, the Irish Lumper, to the exclusion of other potato types.
Pollan makes an unnerving point about this tragedy. When it came to feeding themselves, farmers in Latin America and the Caribbean had plenty of alternative bananas—species too thin-skinned to be exported or too weird-looking for Westerners to buy. Plus, there was a huge yellow life raft in the form of the Race 1-resistant Cavendish, which Standard Fruit started rolling out in The rest of Big Banana eventually followed suit, ramping up plantations to produce more sterile Cavendish clones than ever.
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While United Fruit and Standard Fruit—which soon morphed into Chiquita and Dole, respectively—and other banana giants built booming businesses around Cavendish clones, Panama disease was busy too. For many millennia, an evolutionary bloodsport between Panama disease and wild bananas has raged on in Malaysian jungles.
While the fungus made sure wild bananas passed on only the best genes for survival, wild bananas kept the fungus primed for lethal combat. When the fungus was brought to Latin America in the late 19th century, the Gros Michel never stood a chance. This, after all, was a fungus born to kill the most evolved banana species out there.