The GLP is committed to full transparency. Download and review our 2019 Annual Report

World’s favorite banana faces extinction. Are GMOs, CRISPR the final hope?

| | September 25, 2019

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

The race to engineer the next-generation banana is on. The Colombian government confirmed [in August] that a banana-killing fungus has invaded the Americas — the source of much of the world’s banana supply. The invasion has given new urgency to efforts to create fruit that can withstand the scourge.

Scientists are using a mix of approaches to save the banana. A team in Australia has inserted a gene from wild bananas into the top commercial variety — known as the Cavendish — and are currently testing these modified bananas in field trials. Researchers are also turning to the powerful, precise gene-editing tool CRISPR to boost the Cavendish’s resilience against the fungus, known as Fusarium wilt tropical race 4 (TR4).

Related article:  What's the most sustainable, affordable and nutritious sugar: Boutique imported unrefined whole cane v. domestic sugar cane v. sugar beet?

In an attempt to make biotech bananas more palatable to regulators, [James Dale, a biotechnologist at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia] is …. editing the Cavendish’s genome with CRISPR to boost its resilience to TR4, instead of inserting foreign genes.

Specifically, he’s trying to turn on a dormant gene in the Cavendish that confers resistance to TR4 — the same gene that he identified in M. acuminate. But the work is still in its early stages. “It’ll be a couple of years before these get into the field for trials,” Dale says.

Read full, original article: CRISPR might be the banana’s only hope against a deadly fungus

News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.

Send this to a friend