Disease Threatens World Banana Supplies
A disease called "Panama" is threatening supplies of the world's most popular fruit – banana.
Two years ago, the United Nations warned that the "Panama disease" could destroy "much of the world's banana crop."
Since then, things have not gotten better. A new outbreak was discovered last year in Australia. The disease started in Asia in the 1990s, and later spread to Africa and the Middle East.
World health officials worry the disease could travel to Latin America, one of the top banana producers in the world.
All this is a big concern because bananas are an important source of income and nutrients for millions of people. They are grown in 135 tropical nations.
The United Nations lists bananas as one of the most important foods, along with rice, wheat and corn. In 2011, farmers produced 107 metric tons, the UN said.
The website ultimatesuperfoods.org says bananas also contain serotonin, which it says makes people feel happy.
"No matter who you are, you'll enjoy the calming effects and positive vibes," the website says of the banana.
Concern in the banana industry
Randy Ploetz is a professor at the Tropical Research and Educational Center at the University of Florida. Many consider him as America's top banana expert, or, "top banana."
As he explained, Panama disease affects the Cavendish banana. The Cavendish is one of more than 500 kinds of bananas. But it is the most popular.
"The industry is waking up to the problem," Ploetz said. "They are pretty scared."
He was speaking Thursday by telephone from Miami, Florida, where he is among 1,000 people attending the International Banana Congress.
The meeting was supposed to take place in Costa Rica, but was moved at the last minute. There were concerns banana growers could spread Panama disease from dirt collected on their shoes, Ploetz said.
Ploetz said reports Cavendish banana production could end are not correct. But if the disease spreads to Latin America, it could hurt the world's economy along with food supplies for millions of people.
Still, he said there is reason for hope. Scientists in Australia are working on a genetically engineered banana that might not be at risk of getting Panama disease. But Ploetz wondered if people are ready to accept genetically engineered bananas.
Robert Bertram is chief scientist for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). He said bananas are important to many millions of people all over the world.
"In Africa, Asia and tropical America, bananas and plantains are an important food source for more than 100 million people," he told VOA.
"As a cash crop, bananas are sold in local, regional and international markets," Bertram said. Banana exports provide jobs and foreign money that producing countries need, he said.
Bertram said USAID is organizing a worldwide effort to stop the growth of Panama disease.
A fungus, known as TR4, causes the Panama disease.
Before 2013, Bertram said, it was limited to Asia – China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan. Since then, it spread to the Middle East – Jordan, Lebanon, Oman and Pakistan and to Africa, in Mozambique.
In the 1960s, the same fungus wiped out the ‘Gros Michel' banana crop, which at the time was the world's most popular. The Cavendish replaced it.
John McQuaid, author of "Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat" said some people think the Gros Michels "tasted better."
At Wageningen University in the Netherlands, researchers are looking for Cavendish replacements. Their work is difficult. Researchers said a replacement will have to resist Panama disease, and survive the shipping time needed to get bananas to stores thousands of miles away from banana fields.
And, yes, they will have to taste good.
I'm Bruce Alpert.
1.Since then 从那以后
Ever since then, he comes out only at night.
2.spread to 传播；蔓延
The cancer has spread to his stomach.
3.millions of 无数的；成千上万的
Millions of people gave freely in response to the famine appeal.
4.in terms of 依据；按照
All banks measure profit in terms of earnings per share.
1.The meeting was supposed to take place in Costa Rica, but was moved at the last minute.
take place 发生；举行
As usual, the yearly audit will take place in December.
When will the party take place?
2.The United Nations lists bananas as one of the most important foods, along with rice, wheat and corn. In 2011, farmers produced 107 metric tons, the UN said.
along with 伴随；与...一起
The bill came along with the package.
The temperature becomes cold along with the sun's gradually sinks.
然而，情况并未好转 。去年澳大利亚爆发了一种新的病毒 。首次发现该病毒是在20世纪90年代的亚洲地区，此后病毒传播至非洲和中东地区 。
香蕉作为一项重大的收入来源，同时又是数百万人的营养供给源，因此病毒成为当前亟待解决的问题 。全球盛产香蕉的热带国家有135个 。
联合国将香蕉与水稻、小麦和玉米同列为最重要的作物 。2011年，香蕉总产量为107公吨 。
兰迪·普罗兹(Randy Ploetz)是美国佛罗里达大学(University of Florida)热带研究教育中心的教授 。他是美国顶尖的香蕉研究专家 。
他解释道，“巴拿马病”对卡文迪许香蕉的产量有极大影响 。全球香蕉约有500余种，而卡文迪许香蕉最受欢迎 。
普罗兹表示，卡文迪许香蕉将会绝产的消息有误 。但若该疾病扩散至拉丁美洲，将严重威胁世界经济以及大量的食品供应 。
他说目前仍有挽救的余地，澳大利亚的科学家们正在研究可抵抗巴拿马疾病的转基因香蕉 。但普罗兹认为人们是否能接受转基因香蕉仍然是一个问题 。
罗伯特·伯特伦是美国国际开发署(USAID)的首席科学家 。他说香蕉对全世界人民来说都很重要 。
接受美国之音采访时他表示：“对于生活在非洲、亚洲及美洲热带地区的人来说，香蕉和大蕉是1亿多人口的主要食物来源 。” 。
“香蕉作为一种经济作物，不仅在当地出售，还运输至其他地区和国际市场 。”伯特伦说 。香蕉出口为当地提供了大量的工作机会，增加了其外汇储备 。
約翰·麦奎德是《品味：饮食的艺术与科学》的作者 。他说，有人觉得大麦克香蕉的口感更好 。
荷兰瓦赫宁根大学的研究人员正在寻找取代卡文迪什香蕉的新品种 。这是一项艰巨的工作 。研究人员表示，新品种香蕉须抵抗巴拿马疾病并能经得起长时间运输，因为香蕉需要运送到几千公里外的市场 。