GMO tweak needed to rescue popular Cavendish bananas

| | July 15, 2015
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

In case you hadn’t heard the news, bananas as we know them are swiftly dying. As it turns out, those big, curvy yellow fruit we see every day at grocery stores are all cloned descendants of the Cavendish banana, a cultivar deemed hearty and productive enough to evade disease, travel the globe, and still net farmers a profit. Composing 99 percent of commercially exported bananas, these bananas are the archetype of agricultural monoculture. An especially brutal sickness called Fusarium Oxysporum Tropical Race Four, a soil-borne fungus, is ripping through the genetically identical plants of the global Cavendish supply.

The rise of this known bananapocalypse is raising serious questions about how best to escape the threat of monocultures. Namely, it’s pointing us towards the unpopular and ironic reality that perhaps the only way to escape bananageddon is through genetic engineering, usually seen as a culprit in the development of fragile monoculture systems in the first place.

It turns out that diversification, no matter how much of a financial blow producers and consumers are willing to absorb, just won’t be good enough. The only real solution (as Dan Koppel, author of 2008’s Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World, has argued) is probably a mixture of diversification and GMOs. Because if we don’t at least partially lean on genetic modification to save bananas, we won’t just lose a major market, we’ll endanger hundreds of millions of lives in some of the world’s most nutritionally and economically fragile regions.

To preserve the Cavendish, the banana at large, and the millions of lives and livelihoods they are tied to, as a society we might just have to learn to accept a genetically modified future for our fruit.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: How GMOs Offer Unexpected Salvation from a Potential Banana Apocalypse

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