Banana market faces great change as monoculture threatens extinction of West’s most popular variety

TR-4 fungus threatening bananas worldwide may have met its match: genetic altering

Produce Business report

A company in the United States is developing a fungus-proof, genetically engineered banana that will be resistant to a deadly disease threatening to destroy most of the world’s banana crops. 

TR-4, also known as Fusarium Oxysporum, is a fungus that attacks the roots of banana trees and is resistant to fungicides and other chemicals.

The fungus was first discovered in Southeast Asia and is showing in the soil of banana producing countries like Colombia and Costa Rica. Those two hotspots are where the UK gets many of its bananas from, along with the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Cameroon.

Elo Life System, a North Carolina biotechnology firm, is exploring a gene-editing program called “molecular farming” that can make Cavendish bananas resistant to the fungus. The process requires scientists to take genes from healthy bananas in order to edit the genes of new Cavendish bananas.

Elo Life System is not the only organization trying to stop the problematic fungal disease. Scientists in Australia have creasted a modified fruit and are currently waiting for approval to release the banana to the market. 

In 2020, Elo entered a partnership with Dole to develop a banana that’s resistant to TR4. The banana looks and tastes like the ones consumers are used to.

According to the FAO, there are about 1,000 bananas in the world, but Cavendish is the most highly cultivated and consumed, as well as the most exported bananas in the world. The top export countries are Ecuador, the Philippines, and Guatemala. 



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