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October 11th, 2018 / Genetic Literacy Project

B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru writes:

Ugandan researchers have been successful at developing robust hybrid bananas through conventional breeding techniques. Yet they see a strong need to adopt GM varieties of the fruit that is so critical to the nation.

They argue that using conventional breeding to develop hybrid cooking bananas is a tedious affair, taking more than half a dozen years to get them ready for market. And while the conventional hybrids offer the promise of high yields, they lack the critical pest and disease resistance offered by GM bananas.

According to statistical information published in ResearchGate a social networking site for scientists, bananas and plantains are an important world food security crop for the livelihood of millions of smallholder farmers in tropical countries. The crops are grown in more than 120 countries with an annual world production of around 104 million tons.

East Africa is the largest producing and consuming region of bananas in Africa, with Uganda being the world’s second leading producer behind India. It is estimated that 75 percent of Ugandan farming households grow this crop on about 1.5 million hectares.

Despite the crop’s importance as food security, its productivity has been declining over time, particularly in central Uganda where crops have been ravaged by pests and diseases. Read more