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  • From: "Mike Levine" <>
  • To: "North American Fruit Explorers" <>
  • Subject: Re: [NAFEX] Bananas
  • Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2003 19:23:51 -0500

I'm mostly with you on what you said except for the test tubes breaking.
Tissue culture is really not much different than taking a cutting, except
for the use of a small amount of 2,4,D to do it. It's certainly a much
better use for it than ridding our lawns of dandelions.

I found issues with this statement at the end of the article.

"* Biotechnology can speed up research dramatically. Classical plant
breeding can use biotechnologies to see which varieties are worth
pursuing. And genetic modification is one biotechnology that could be
used to breed improved varieties of banana. In cases where varieties
are totally sterile, it is the only available solution. Genetically
manipulated bananas would be environmentally safe because the banana
is sterile and modified genes would not be able to escape from the
transformed crop. "

While biotechnology can speed up research, there are many inherent flaws
with it. I once took a class in biotechnology and found it quite
interesting, especially if used properly. I'm organic, but still think
interesting things could be done with this technology. Unfortunately, it's
only been used to make the rich richer. I have problems with statements
like the above. There is never only one solution to a problem. Also, I
don't believe in claims of completely sterile varieties. In almost every
case where something was supposed to be sterile, I've seen exceptions.
Also, even if the bananas remained sterile, genes can always escape from
plants by way of a virus or fungus, both of which are capable of recombining
genes in unusual ways. I see this article as manipulation of the media by
large multinational corporations who have a stake in getting their
frankenbananas out to market. Who can guarantee modified genes won't
escape? and what is the guarantee? Do we get our money back? Surely we
can (in time) help to breed bananas that are more resistant. Banana
breeding work could certainly help to reduce the abusive agricultural
practices mentioned in less developed countries and I hope that more funding
goes in that direction. I've spent a bit of time in the tropics and seen
these issues first hand. It's certainly sad when the locals think the blue
bags on the hands of growing bananas are "medicine" for the fruit.
Medicine? It makes me want to cry. Who told them that? I guess I'll try
to not get overwhelmed and use the information I've got to teach those
individuals that I do come into contact with.

Mike Levine
Ann Arbor, MI
zone 5b

----- Original Message -----
From: <>
To: "North American Fruit Explorers" <>
Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2003 2:11 PM
Subject: RE: [NAFEX] Bananas

> i am saddened by the lack of concern it seems that is being expressed
about the underlying issues with these diseases. over the last hundred
years, repressive political climates, slave labor, assinations of socialists
leaders, and ignorance have been and are the tools with which banana cartels
control their third world growing regions while shipping to us in the first
world the fruits of worse than sweat shop conditions. no one commented at
all on the issue of pesticide and fungicide exposure to workers in
plantations which i can say from first and second hand experience is a
horrible reality. the fact that soil borne disease is the reason vast areas
of forest are burned or cut (not local firewood gatherers or indigenous
slash and burn ag) to expose virgin soil for the now boom bust cycle of
plantation ag. leaf and soil diseases are carried by workers and equipment
into the local areas, killing local varieties, as well as chemical residues
in the water supply resulting in mu!
> ch sickness. it easy for those of us in the first world benefiting from
the throttle of the invisible hand to act like owls; our twenty twenty hind
sight saying well of course monoculture is the problem. but of course where
were we thirty years ago when bananas tasted "better". a small group of
first world plant collectors apparently are not owls but mice, seeing only
in front of them their pleasure gardening and potted tropicals. so go buy
your diverse selection of bananas and let someone else worry about soil
erosion, caste systems and our greedy little desire for the next tasty
thing. i thought maybe the purpose of nafex was to promote good will and
food for all. guess this doesn't apply to those in the third world. with the
attitudes expressed on this subject, i know why the banana and many other
crops continue to be threatened by modern ag supplies systems, plant
collectors, development and varieties going extinct because of villagers
having no land to plant them. 400 v!
> arieties in test tubes! that is the anti-christ of what i thought i was
doing in this group! to save them for us but not for them? i hope all those
test tubes break. i assure all of you this banana story and others like it
are not reactionists crying chicken little. the refuting articles are those
funded and backed by ag interests and supermarket chains. the climatic and
social problems created by our cushy lifestyle ARE destroying the world's
food supply. period. i'm going to go eat a golden russet grown right here.
> heron
> ------------------------------------------------
> On Wed, 29 Oct 2003 10:31:01 -0500, "gorgon zolla" <>
> > I too had read the doom-and-gloom predictions about banana production.
> > in my limited reading, it would appear that fungal diseases, insect
> > and nematodes have been major problems in commercial banana culture for
> > decades. It hardly seems that another new race of fusarium could spell
> > end of the industry. Fusarium-resistant varieties and cultivars have
> > produced for so many plants that the process is predictable and well
> > understood. The only things unique to the banana are the relative
> > of research dollars and the supposed difficulty of breeding. Though, an
> > month seed-to-seed cycle doesn't seem that long compared to, say, pears.
> >
> > I wasn't going to mention this because it seems so foolish, but I do
> > three varieties of banana plants on order from a nursery in Florida and
> > be trying to grow them out in pots. I'm hoping they will flower in the
> > summer heat next year and thus set fruit. They are: dwarf Cavendish,
> > Oronoco, and dwarf Brazilian. Said to be among the more suitable for
> > culture. I'll provide a full report in the unlikely event that they do
> > anything.
> >
> > On a culinary note, I remember visiting West Palm Beach once on business
> > being given a few bananas from the backyard tree of a colleague who
> > there. The fruit were delightful, somewhat sweeter and more flavorful
> > the storebought varieties. I imagine that the improved quality had more
> > do with freshness than climate, variety, or culture.
> >
> > Steve Dunlop
> > Nerstrand, MN (Zone 4)
> >
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