April 23, 2024

Bananas with fungal infection: Australia allows GMO varieties – News


Today's edible bananas are threatened by a fungus. What has science done about it?

what is he talking about? In Australia, the consumption of genetically modified bananas was recently approved for the first time in the world.

Why would someone change the genetic material of bananas? Traditional banana trees are increasingly under attack by diseases. It is called Panama disease, which is caused by a fungus – Fusarium oxysporum TR4. There is no antidote for this fungus. The situation in banana crops is currently under control. Ultimately, however, the fungus will never be completely suppressed or permanently contained, says plant pathologist Remco Stam of Christian Albrechts University in Kiel, northern Germany.


Remco Stamm conducts research on the defense response of plants against pathogens in the city of Kiel, northern Germany.


Is there only one type of banana? No, there are many types of bananas in the world. But most of them are not eaten. “At some point, people realized that people liked bananas more if they didn't have seeds,” Remco Stamm explains. That's why seeds have been bred away from them for thousands of years. “The Cavendish bananas we eat have no seeds and do not reproduce sexually.” Specifically, each banana is a clone with the exact same genes. Bananas are not pollinated like apples, for example.

Yellow banana


Bananas as a vitamin donor are very popular all over the world.

Keystone/A3600, Daniel Carman

Why can't you grow another type of naturally grown banana? There is no other variety that can compete with the Cavendish in terms of yield, transportability and taste. The banana story is repeated. The once-dominant commercial variety Gros Michel — tastier and easier to harvest and transport thanks to its thicker skin — was already doomed by the Fusarium oxysporum TR1 fungus. By about 1960, much of the property had been destroyed. Then Gros-Michel was replaced by Cavendish, who came from Vietnam.

What is the difference between conventional Cavendish bananas and genetically modified Cavendish bananas? The Australian researchers only changed one gene, Stamm says. “They took a gene from a wild banana with seeds — the RGA2 gene — and inserted it into the Cavendish banana. This gene makes wild bananas resistant to Panama disease. This gene was missing or not activated in the Cavendish banana.

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