Yes, We (Could) Have No Bananas

I’ve been a bit of a Peaknic for a long time now.

Working my way up through the Peak Oil Night Terrors (they’re a bit like dreaming of a Zombie Apocalypse, but with Texan Oil Barons and Fake Sheiks hell bent on world domination for private gain. Oh no, wait, that’s a thing) on to Peak Soil, Peak Farmers, Peak Food, Peak Phosphorus, Peak Helium (do you really need floaty balloons and a squeaky voice that much?) to Peak Common Sense.

But Peak Bananas? Nooooooooooo!!!

Last weekend was spoiled by the news that bananas are in trouble. (I checked the date – it wasn’t 1st April.)

Yes, I admit that I was at first intrigued to find that almost every banana we eat in the Western world is descended from one plant at Chatsworth House – a variety named Musa cavendishii after the family name of the Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire.

And yes, I did wonder for a minute or two (before the memory of my experiment in sweet potato production kicked in) if a triple-skinned polytunnel would be enough to bring forth the first Scottish banana. They need plenty of water, a rich loam soil and well-rotted dung and it’s not like we don’t have the water – though that’s peaking too. [Reality Check #2: maintaining a temperature between 18oC and 30oC may be a bit of a push?]

Like the Gros Michel variety before it, the Cavendish banana is now being decimated by a new strain of the fungus known as Panama Disease or banana wilt. (No jokes about sex education classes, please).


And though other banana breeds are available, it seems we’ve done that thing we always do and stripped away diversity and difference in the interests of turning a quick buck. Why, oh why, when it comes to the bits of nature we want to eat do we have a one-size-fits-all, any-colour-as-long-as-it’s-yellow approach?

Because it’s hard to make as big a profit if you can’t standardize.

So the nature we don’t try to tame goes off and mutates a gene here and introduces a slight variation there and some of them work and some of them don’t, but it doesn’t matter, because there’s always something that’s going to get through.

Meanwhile, for the trivial things like food, we create vast deserts of monoculture just asking to be decimated by the latest strain of nature doing what it does best.

Wasn’t it Einstein who said insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?


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