UK biotech firm poised to test disease-resistant CRISPR bananas and coffee in South America

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Norwich food-tech firm Tropic Biosciences is set to push the development of its gene-edited bananas and coffee into field trials after raising $28.5m (£22.5m) from investors.

The start-up, led by a former Israeli naval commander, uses gene editing technology known as CRISPR to cut away sequences of DNA in crops that might make them susceptible to diseases and pathogens.

The funds, raised in a Series B round led by Temasek, a Singapore state-owned investment company, will help the company scale-up production of its gene-edited foods in banana plantations and coffee farms.

Seeds it edits in its labs in Norwich will be be sent to various places, including Costa Rica, where they will be sown into soil in banana plantations to see how well they grow.

Related article:  EU Commission prepares for possible 'overhaul' of GMO crop rules to address CRISPR gene editing

To date, the company has had a particular focus on Cavendish bananas, a variety of the fruit which has come to dominate the global export market of bananas worth more than $13.6bn but is at risk of wipeout from the Panama disease caused by a deadly fungus.

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