Damn Interesting writes about the Unfortunate sex life of the banana:
The banana plant is a hybrid, originating from the mismatched pairing of two South Asian wild plant species: Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. Between these two products of nature, the former produces unpalatable fruit flesh, and the latter is far too seedy for enjoyable consumption. Nonetheless, these closely related plants occasionally cross-pollinate and spawn seedlings which grow into sterile, half-breed banana plants. Some ten thousand years ago, early human experimenters noted that some of these hybridized Musa bore unexpectedly tasty, seedless fruit in addition to an unheard-of yellowness and inexplicably amusing shape. They also proved an excellent source of carbohydrates and other important nutrients.
Despite the hybrid’s unfortunate sexual impotence, shrewd would-be agriculturalists realised that the plants could be cultivated from suckering shoots and cuttings taken from the underground stem. The genetically identical progeny produced this way remained sterile, yet the new plant could be widely propagated with human help. An intensive and prolonged process of selective breeding — aided by the variety of hybrids and occasional random genetic mutations — eventually evolved the banana into its present familiar form.
It fascinates me how much that we think of as natural was created in the form we know them by humans. Genetically engineered – the slow way, but genetically engineered all the same.
Not just plants, but animals. When we say that dogs and cows were “domesticated”, what we mean is that they were genetically engineered to live in symbiosis with humans.