Biology

The Seeds of Infertility


The seeds of infertility. #food, #bananas, #corn, #genetics, #infertility

Bananas and corn have one thing in common: they can no longer reproduce in nature. Both beloved examples of yellow vegetation have become so domesticated that they cannot survive without assistance from humans.The banana you get from the supermarket, the Cavendish, is actually a seedless, impotent hybrid of two less-appetizing plant species. Farmers make it possible for the banana to reproduce by removing and transplanting part of the plant’s stem.

Some researchers believe we are rapidly approaching a banana apocalypse. Global cultivation has made all bananas genetically identical to one another, meaning they face increasing threats from pests and disease. These threats continually evolve, while bananas remain relatively unchanged. Some scientists believe we are within decades of seeing the end of the banana, as we know it, as a food source.

On a related note, corn also owes its continued existence to mankind. It is the most widely grown grain crop throughout the Americas, with 361 million metric tons grown in the United States in 2014. Despite these massive numbers, corn would virtually disappear within just a couple of years without human cultivation. Centuries of selective breeding has resulted in the husk (the leaves surrounding the ear of corn) being so tightly wrapped around the ear that natural pollination and germination of the kernels is not viable.

While corn enjoys much more genetic variety than bananas, giving it far greater protection from disease and parasites, it remains precariously close to extinction, but for a continual helping hand from mankind.

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