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TR-4 fungus that threatens bananas worldwide may have met its match: genetic change

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

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 found in the soil of banana-producing countries such as Colombia and Costa Rica. These two hotspots are where Britain gets many of its bananas, along with the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Cameroon.

Elo Life System, a North Carolina biotechnology company, is investigating a gene editing program called “molecular farming” that could make Cavendish bananas resistant to the fungus. The process requires scientists to extract genes from healthy bananas 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 created a modified fruit and are currently awaiting approval to market the banana.

In 2020, Elo partnered with Dole to develop a banana resistant to TR4. The banana looks and tastes as consumers are used to.

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