GMOs could save banana industry but could consumers accept it?

The international banana industry only has itself to blame for its vulnerability to panama disease, and faces annihilation if the fungus continues to spread, according to an expert on global banana production.

The banana industry is a monoculture, focussing primarily on the growth and trade of the Cavendish banana.

However, the Cavendish variety is highly susceptible to the major plant pest, Panama Tropical Race 4, which is rampant throughout Asia and the Northern Territory, and is now thought to have spread to a farm in Queensland.

Dan Koeppel is an American food researcher and the author of Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World.

He says there are alternatives to the Cavendish, but says another solution is to breed bananas that are resistant to panama disease, including through genetic modification.

“There are such bananas being developed in Queensland right now, and scientists know that because bananas are so hard to breed you need genetic engineering as a way to quickly jump-start the breeding.”

But despite what he says is an urgent need for banana development and innovation, Mr Koeppel admits consumers may not be ready for GM bananas.

“There’s going to be huge problems with consumer acceptance of a genetically modified banana,” he said.

“Personally, I believe, a GMO banana would be safe and desirable and is needed. But it’s going to be very difficult to actually get those on to the market.”

Read full, original article: Analysis: is the global banana industry facing a self-made crisis as devastating plant fungus spreads?

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