Banana Panic! Is the Fruit Really on the Brink of Extinction?

iStock
iStock

Enjoy your banana pancakes while they last. A tropical fungus that causes Panama disease could wipe out the Cavendish—the most popular variety of banana—in the not-so-distant future. To make matters worse, a wild crop of bananas in Madagascar that could help diversify the fruit's gene pool and protect the Cavendish was just put on the extinction list, the BBC reports.

Throughout the world, the Cavendish is the type of banana that’s most commonly consumed. The Madagascan banana produces seeds, rendering it inedible, but researchers at the Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre say it could be cross-bred to create a new kind of banana that’s both tasty and resilient. In other words, the key to saving the fruit is expanding its genes. Although it is nearly extinct, the African variety seems particularly promising because it could have unique properties that make it resistant to drought or disease.

"It doesn't have Panama disease in it, so perhaps it has genetic traits against the disease," Richard Allen, senior conservation assessor at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, told the BBC. "We don't know until we actually do research on the banana itself, but we can't do the research until it's saved."

Banana panic has been ongoing for a few years, but Snopes reports that some fears—like claims that bananas will be extinct within a decade—are unfounded. However, threats to the Cavendish banana are very real, and it’s not the only crop that’s vulnerable. The world’s most popular wine grapes are also susceptible to pandemics for similar reasons, including a lack of genetic diversity. Scientists are now crossbreeding different varieties of grapes—much like efforts to save the banana—in an effort to keep the wine flowing.

[h/t BBC]

The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It

ChopBox
ChopBox

When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port. 

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 Kickstarter goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100-$120 if you pledge fast. You can back the ChopBox here.

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McDonald’s Is Testing Out Plastic-Free Restaurants in Germany and Canada

Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

The public pressure on corporations to adopt sustainable practices grows stronger by the day, but there’s no manual on how exactly they should do it. To give itself some room to experiment before committing to a global roll-out, McDonald’s is testing out plastic-free restaurants in Germany and Canada.

Food & Wine reports that the first location to go green was a McDonald’s in Germany’s Mall of Berlin, which the burger behemoth dubbed the Better McDonald’s Store for 10 days in June. While some changes were pretty standard—paper straws and wooden cutlery replaced their plastic counterparts, for example—others demonstrated a commendable level of creativity. Condiments came in edible waffle cups, and burgers were served in wrapping made from actual grass.

According to a press release, the Berlin trial was a way of allowing customers and stakeholders to contribute to the discussion and provide feedback so McDonald’s could adjust its large-scale game plan accordingly.

“Normally, McDonald’s goes out with perfect solutions,” Diana Wicht, the sustainability department head for McDonald’s Germany, explained in the press release. “This time we said ‘We don’t have perfect solutions yet … Please help us!”

McDonald's is implementing new sustainable options in some of its restaurants worldwide
McDonald's

Unsurprisingly, customers did have some thoughts. The grass packaging was a straightforward success, and the waffle cups had a fair number of fans, too—though some felt the shape of the cups could be better optimized for dipping McNuggets. Straws presented more of a conundrum, because most people acknowledge that while plastic straws are evil, paper straws disintegrate too quickly to be a workable solution; some customers suggested completely eliminating straws for patrons dining in the restaurant simply by serving lid-less drinks. Wooden cutlery, however, was a flop; one of every two customers surveyed said it tasted “woody.”

Overall, McDonald’s deemed the experiment a success, and has opened two comparable stores in Ontario and British Columbia to gauge Canadian customers' responses.

The fast-food giant has also sprinkled smaller sustainability changes in other stores around the globe. McDonald’s Canada swapped out its napkins for smaller ones manufactured from recycled fibers, and McDonald’s UK is in the process of ditching plastic McFlurry lids and replacing plastic salad containers with recyclable cardboard versions.

Hopefully, the McDonald’s sustainability overhaul will also lead to the invention of a McFlurry machine that doesn’t break down so often.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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