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Defeating Nematode Worms with GM Bananas

In Africa, bananas and plantains are the fourth most widely produced and consumed food crops in Africa. Nematode is one of its important pests that causes yield loss of up to 50 to 70% and damage cost of US$125 billion in sub-Saharan Africa. Damage levels in the past few years have been increasing in parts of Eastern Africa.

Under the Sustainable Agricultural Research for International Development (SARID), two approaches were used to develop potatoes that are resistant to the nematode. These approaches are used to develop other nemotode-resistant crops including bananas and plantain. The identification and isolation of genes were developed at the University of Leeds and the transfer of the genes were conducted at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) led by Dr. Leena Tripathi.

"Leeds and IITA together have shown that the technology is effective and a GM field trial is now planned for 2012," says Professor Howard Atkinson from the University of Leeds' Africa College. He added that once the trials are successful, farmer uptake is envisioned to be rapid and successful, as the majority of banana consumers in Africa live in countries that favor deployment of genetically modified plant biotechnology.

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This article is part of the Crop Biotech Update, a weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA)

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