In the United States, the banana is one of the most popular fruits in the average grocery store, and rightly known as a good source of potassium. In much of the developing world, such as Latin America and Africa, the banana (along with the plantain) constitute some of the most plentiful and crucial foodstuffs and are the fourth most important food crop after rice, wheat, and corn. In recent years, production levels of both crops have suffered as the rapidly spreading fungus "Black Sigatoka" has taken its toll, often reducing yields by up to 50 percent. Additionally, chemical fungicides used on the crops have harmed the health of plantation workers and the environment, adding to an already problematic situation. In a recent press release, Emile Frisson, the head of the International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain, noted that, "We may seen the extinction of the banana as both a lifesaver for hungry and impoverished Africans and as the most popular product on the world's supermarket shelves."
The first link leads to a recent Reuters release about the difficulties currently facing the continued success of the banana and plantain crop around the world. The second link describes the propagation process of the banana, which for the cultivated banana, is complicated by the fact that it has no seeds and is sterile. The third link will take users to a brief written by Geoffrey Hawtin for the UNESCO Courier on the importance of genetic diversity and food security. The fourth link goes to the home page of the International Network for the Improvement of the Banana and Plantain, which contains a wealth of material about the importance of bananas and plantains, particularly to the developing world. The fifth link is to a 2001 press release from the Future Harvest group announcing that a global consortium would begin work on sequencing the banana genome, in large part to discover the diversity of bananas that grow and reproduce in the wild. The fifth link takes users to a fact sheet published by the INIBAP highlighting the importance of bananas to the nutritional well being of persons in developing areas. The last link leads to a page devoted to recipes that utilize bananas.