2 May 2017
Consider the Banana
When you buy bananas at the store, it doesn’t seem like they contain any seeds, or at least not that you have noticed. If you went out into the wild and peeled open a banana that you found, you would find seeds. Some of these seeds can be very big and take up much of the fruit, making the banana almost impossible to eat.
The bananas that you and I purchase from the local grocery store, for the most part are known as the Cavendish variety. These Cavendish bananas have been specifically bred over the years so that they are seedless and cannot form mature seeds. Every single Cavendish banana is genetically exactly the same. They are all identical descendants of one single banana. This is what we call a Genetically Modified Organism, or a GMO.
Bananas are plentiful, vitamin-rich fruits that can fuel us with energy, make us feel full and provide our body with nutrients and high amount of fiber because of their simple, natural sugars. The scientific name for the banana is Masa acuminata. As for health benefits, there are lots, even when the banana starts to brown. According to fruitsinfo.com, it states that “Upon purchasing, bananas last for a week, but after some time there are black spots that appear on them growing bigger until the bananas turn black. We think they are rotten and throw them away. But the fact is that the spots on the banana increase the value of the fruit. The brown spots represent the tumor necrosis factor. This cancer-fighting substance present in the banana helps to fight against abnormal cells in the body; however it is not proven clinically” (10). This is just one of the many benefits of bananas. Oh yeah, did I mention these are the same bananas that are genetically modified?
As stated in the article Banana Production Methods, André Gonçalves and Jim Kernaghan write “The planting material (the rhizomes) is taken directly from established banana plantations. As bananas are usually spread by vegetative means, farmers remove the suckers of a plant, which can be from either his own crop or else from those of a neighboring plantation” (10). Which means, each new banana plant has to be manually planted from a cutting of existing banana roots, not from seeds or the actual banana.
Up until the 1950s, the most common banana was not the Cavendish variety, but was actually a breed of banana called the the Gros Michel. According to raw-food-health.com, “the banana (Gros Michel) was the first to be cultivated on a large scale, and started appearing in North American and European cities in the late 1800s” (3). The Gros Michel was wiped out by a fungus known as fusarium oxysporum, which was the main fungus involved in the cause and spread of Panama disease as well.
The fungus attacked the roots of banana plants and was resistant to the chemicals that attempted to kill off this fungus. All Gros Michel were identical clones, or GMOs, just like today, therefore all of the bananas were susceptible, causing the fungus to spread across plantations very quickly. The Cavendish, the banana we consume and can buy today, was chosen as a replacement because it was modified to have a specific resistance against this fungus.
Like mentioned in the beginning of this essay, the bananas that you and I purchase at the store today are all genetically modified, or GMO. Most people don’t have a lot of knowledge about GMOs. Therefore, people think that they are supposed to be scared of GMOs. But are GMOs really that bad? The answer is that it really just depends. There are some foods that we cannot eat unless they have been genetically modified, just like the bananas I have been talking about this whole easy. But there are some foods that are genetically modified just to save money and gain more later on, or to enhance flavors, adding many different ingredients that we cannot pronounce. Sometimes, this can make the food you are eating seem worse for you, but on the other hand we can more easily determine how safe GMO foods are for consumption, compared to if they were found naturally in the wild. In an article titled GMO Foods: Why We Shouldn’t Label (Or Worry About) Genetically Modified Products written by Cameron English, he states that “Since we don’t live in a sterile environment, all the plants we eat, genetically modified or not, are loaded with bacteria, viruses, and other living organisms — and their DNA” (4). Meaning that GMO or not, our fruits and veggies, can also have underlying issues that we may look over on a day to day basis while being so wrapped up in the whole GMO or no GMO idea.
Everyone who likes bananas has eaten a banana and everyone of those bananas has been genetically modified, and thats completely fine. There are probably a lot of other fruits or vegetables, not just bananas, out there that are also genetically modified that you eat everyday. Without this GMO technology and knowledge, we would not even be able to have banana in our diets. Although if you are really worried about getting the best, most good for you banana that you possibly can, go organic. Organic bananas are, yes, still genetically modified, yet may be grown in more sanitary ways that don’t involve being sprayed with harsh preservatives and chemicals. Next time you go into the store to purchase bananas, don’t be deterred, buy the GMO banana, everything will be just fine.
“Banana.” Fruits. N.p., 2016. Web.
Duncan, David Ewing. “Without a genetic fix, the banana may be history.” SFGate. N.p., 05 Apr. 2004. Web.
English, Cameron. “GMO Foods: Why We Shouldn’t Label (Or Worry About) Genetically Modified Products.” Mic. Mic Network Inc., 25 Oct. 2015. Web.
Gonçalves, André, and Jim Kernaghan. “Banana production methods A comparative study.” (2014): 1-38. Web.
“Gros Michel: The Lost Banana Your Grandfather Loved.” Raw-food-health. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
Remy, S., Kovács, G., Swennen, R. and Panis, B. (2013). GENETICALLY MODIFIED BANANAS: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE. Acta Hortic. 974, 71-80