Published: April 9, 2024

Category: GMO News

World’s first GM banana will provide a “safety net” for Australia’s $1.3 billion Cavendish banana industry

The Panama Disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4) poses a threat to several banana varieties, including the Cavendish—a major export crop for Australia. Queensland scientists have developed the QCAV-4, a genetically modified Cavendish variety, to provide a “safety net” for Australia’s $1.3 billion banana industry and for the global industry, although the Panama disease is not currently an active threat.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)  has approved QCAV-4 for human consumption; no immediate plans exist to bring it to market.

Panama TR4 is a fungal disease that has damaged Cavendish crops worldwide, said QUT Distinguished Professor James Dale. The GM banana introduced a single resistance gene, RGA2, from a wild banana species native to Southeast Asia, to replace the same gene in the Cavendish that doesn’t work in resisting disease.

However, Cambridge University experts have demonstrated that different banana varieties can be “grafted together to build in disease resistance and other traits,” without using GM technology. Professor Julian Hibberd said, “Grafting embryonic tissue holds real potential across a range of grass-like species. We found that even distantly related species… are graft compatible.”

The technology can also be used to add disease resistance and salt tolerance, for example, to other grains including rice, wheat, and barley. The Cavendish actually only accounts for 10% of bananas consumed worldwide.

GM Watch calls out dramatic headlines claiming bananas “will slip into extinction without GM.”
Sources: Better Homes and Gardens/Australia; GM Watch; Cosmos Magazine

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 Organic & Non-GMO Insights April 2024