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September 3rd, 2019 / SciDev.net

Recent developments in genetic modification (GM) technology include a way to prevent the popular Cavendish banana variety from being wiped out by the Fusarium wilt fungus, according to the latest report of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) released last week (29 August) in Manila.

The Cavendish — which accounts for nearly half of all banana varieties grown in the world and most imports into Europe and the US — can be protected by splicing in genes from banana varieties resistant to the deadly Tropical Race 4 (TR4) strain of the Fusarium oxysporum fungus as well as a gene from a nematode worm, says the ISAAA report.

First identified in Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia in the early 1990s, TR4 has since spread to Africa and now threatens the vast banana plantations of Latin America. Left unchecked, TR4 may well cause the Cavendish to go extinct, threatening the livelihoods of 400 million people around the world who rely on this banana variety as food or as a source of income, according to FAO. Read more …