People want a banana that looks, smells, and above all tastes exactly the same as the last banana. Unfortunately, nature itself actively fights against this through a process called evolution. Evolution keeps trying to turn fish into monkeys, dinosaurs into birds, and bananas into we don't know what, but probably something you don't want on your cereal.
But long ago, human agriculture found a way to fight back against natural variation. We don't grow fruit or nut trees from seeds anymore - we clone them. We cut the branches off existing trees and replant them, creating a new tree that is genetically identical to the old one and thus eliminate the chances of it producing fruit that is even slightly different in any way. In a way, every apple, apricot, or chestnut tree is kind of the same tree. Imagine if every steak you ever had came from the same gigantic, immortal cow.
"One of these lives, vengeance will be mine."
Huh. When we say it that way, it almost makes it seem weird.
The big problem with this is that nature relies on genetic diversity for a damn good reason: That diversity is the only thing that stands in the way of disease. If every organism is a clone, all it takes is one bad cold to kill everything.
Or worse -- zombinanas.
That's not a hypothetical. It's already happening to bananas. Or rather, it already happened. Bananas are possibly the most inbred fruit on Earth, due to the fact that they don't even have seeds anymore. So by design, every banana you've ever eaten has essentially been the same damn banana -- a cultivar known as the Cavendish. But there used to be another variety. In the early 1900s, the most popular banana was called the Gros Michel, and it reportedly had a bolder, creamier taste. One year, the Gros Michel came down with a fungus called Panama disease, which almost instantaneously wiped out the entire cultivar.
Luckily, we had the Cavendish to fall back on, because the slightest genetic difference from the Gros Michel was enough to save it ... for now. It's only a matter of time before Panama disease comes for the rest of our bananas, as many Cavendish plantations are currently battling against its resurgence. And bananas are just the first victims. Other fruits, such as apples, are also approaching that genetic bottleneck, at which point one opportunistic disease could excavate an entire layer out of our food pyramid.
Man, why couldn't it have been vegetables?
But all of that is worthwhile, so long as we never have to try anything new.
Ricardo likes to tell you things all the time, try to avoid listening. In fact, you should probably avoid him altogether.
Deep inside us all behind our political leanings, our moral codes and our private biases, there is a cause so colossally stupid, we surprise ourselves with how much we care. Whether it's toilet paper position, fedoras on men or Oxford commas, we each harbor a preference so powerful we can't help but proselytize to the world. In this episode of the Cracked podcast, guest host Soren Bowie is joined by Cody Johnston, Michael Swaim and comedian Annie Lederman to discuss the most trivial things we will argue about until the day we die. Get your tickets here!
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