Biotech Updates

GM Plants Hold the Key to Saving the Banana Industry

February 11, 2011

Scientists from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) headed by Prof. James Dale are planting genetically modified banana to survive Tropical Race Four, a disease caused by soil borne fungus Fusarium. This disease has been a problem to growers because the pathogen stays in the soil for decades and cannot be treated by chemicals.

It has been believed that the toxins from Fusarium kill the cells of the plant. But the QUT scientists believe that the toxins activate a mechanism in the plant to kill itself. Thus, the scientists are thinking of inserting a gene that would inhibit the mechanism, starve the fungus to death, and dictate to the plant not to kill itself.

Prof. Dale received $750,000 from the Australian Research Council to plant 4 acres of GM bananas in diseased soil of the Northern Territory. There was a fear that the disease would reach Latin America. "This project has significance on an international scale," Prof. Dale said. "If we can prove genetically modified bananas can be resistant to this disease, we can make a huge contribution to the future of banana production worldwide."

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