A fungus that has wreaked havoc on banana plantations in the Eastern Hemisphere has, despite years of preventative efforts, arrived in the Americas.
ICA, the Colombian agriculture and livestock authority, confirmed on Thursday that laboratory tests have positively identified the presence of so-called Panama disease Tropical Race 4 on banana farms in the Caribbean coastal region. The announcement was accompanied by a declaration of a national state of emergency.
The discovery of the fungus represents a potential impending disaster for bananas as both a food source and an export commodity. Although bananas produced in infected soil are not unsafe for humans, infected plants eventually stop bearing fruit.
No known fungicide or biocontrol measure has proven effective against TR4. A previous form of the fungus nearly eradicated the global supply of the Gros Michel banana, which was then the only banana exported to the United States and Europe back in the 50s. The more bland Cavendish that is used today was marketed as the Gros Michel replacement.
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