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Classroom Resources: The Sterile Banana

By Fred Pearce

October-December 2008 / Vol. 9 No. 4

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Discussion Questions

  • The author suggests a link between sexual reproduction and maintainance of genetic diversity, both naturally and culturally, to fight off pests and diseases.  What is that link?
  • If the lack of genetic diversity puts the banana and other crop species at risk from novel environmental threats, how have they managed to survive the many thousands of years since their domestication?
  • How might the technology for genetic engineering be used to help preserve landraces of crops that are at risk of extinction?
  • One of the major social trends of the 20th century was increased globalization of trade and the economy relative to previous centuries.  In what ways has globalization hurt efforts to maintain landraces of crops species?  In what ways has globalization helped?

Websites for Further Information

Food Security in the News

  • U.N. food meeting ends with a call for “urgent” action (New York Times, June 6, 2008)
  • U.N. says food plan could cost $30 billion a year (New York Times, June 4, 2008)
  • Near Arctic, seed vault is a Fort Knox of food (New York Times, February 29, 2008)

Peer-reviewed Literature

  • Craenen, K., and R. Ortiz. 1998. Influence of black Sigatoka disease on the growth and yield of diploid and tetraploid hybrid plantains. Crop Protection 17:13-18.
  • Frison, E. 2003. Rescuing the banana. New Scientist 177:26.
  • Padulosi, S., and P. Ayton. 2000. Ripe for revival. New Scientist 167:42-45.

Key Concepts

  • Agriculture
  • Fruit
  • Asexual reproduction
  • Genetic diversity
  • Genetically modified organisms
  • Food security
  • Landrace