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How GMOs Offer Unexpected Salvation from a Potential Banana Apocalypse

There’s more at stake than just fruit in the fight to stop a devastating agricultural disease.

Illustration by Tom Eichacker

In case you hadn’t heard the news, bananas as we know them are swiftly dying. As it turns out, those big, curvy yellow fruit we see every day at grocery stores are all cloned descendants of the Cavendish banana, a cultivar deemed hearty and productive enough to evade disease, travel the globe, and still net farmers a profit. Composing 99 percent of commercially exported bananas, these bananas are the archetype of agricultural monoculture. After their ascendance in the 1950s, the Cavendish held out well for decades, until back in the ‘80s disease finally caught up with the ubiquitous breed. Now an especially brutal sickness called Fusarium Oxysporum Tropical Race Four (or, colloquially, Banana HIV thanks to its incurable potency), a soil-borne fungus, is ripping through the genetically identical plants of the global Cavendish supply.

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Bananas in Paris? Maybe, With This Stylish Greenhouse

A French architecture firm wants to bring a vertical banana plantation into the city's center.

Urban agriculture has already brought bees to London, tilapia to Milwaukee, and bunnies to backyards everywhere. The next frontier? Bananas in Paris, perhaps. French Architecture firm SOA has dreamed up a plan to grow the tropical fruit in the city’s moderate climes through a vertical banana plantation installed in a historic building along a dense street. While the project stands out visually as a beautiful way to integrate greenhouse agriculture within a city's grid, the mission is to create an educational farm to create a conversation around the relationship between tropical food and their metropolitan destinations.

Called Urbanana, the building's design mockups envision a completely glass façade to provide passersby a view of the productive farm within. The space would feature a research lab, restaurant, exposition space, and shop, in addition to the area for growing bananas using artificial lights. The six-story building will maximize its space by gutting out the individual floors in favor of catwalks where the plants will rest.

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The Best Food Writing from the James Beard Awards The Ten Best Food Stories You Should Read From the James Beard Awards

Need something good to read? Check out these food-related longreads on bananas, omega-3s, and Los Angeles eats.

If you don't live near any of the restaurants honored in last week's James Beard Awards, at least you can still read the great stories nominated in the journalism categories.

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Dietary Supplements: Woman Slips on a Banana Peel, For Real

Libyan Coca-Cola wars and a post-meal cigarette are on the menu in today's daily roundup of what we're reading at GOOD Food HQ. Enjoy!

In Libya, Muammar el-Qaddafi’s sons launched a brutal war with each other over control of a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Tripoli.

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