GMO banana developed in Australia to be tested in Mindanao

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 2 Nov) – Australian researchers are planning to conduct field trials in Mindanao for a genetically engineered Cavendish banana that was developed to resist the highly destructive Fusarium wilt or Panama disease.

Colin Melvin, commercial services director of the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia, said Mindanao, including Region 12, is an ideal site for the field testing being the center of banana production in the country.

“There is an opportunity for leadership for Mindanao, particularly for the region, that relies heavily on the banana industry,” Melvin said in an interview over TV Patrol Socsksargen.

A team from the QUT led by Dr. James Dale, the lead researcher on the transgenic banana, earlier visited the city to grace a regional banana congress.

Dale, director of QUT’s Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities, said they have been testing the Fuasarium wilt-resistant bananas in the last three years.

He said they had bred out a banana that is “something different from Cavendish” that is resistant to the disease.

The team also developed a breed of Cavendish banana that is highly resistant to Fusarium wilt, he said.

“We isolated a gene out of the 25,000 banana genes to develop a wild banana into Cavendish,” he said.

Dale said they have done field trials in Australia in the last three years in land or soil that were heavily-infested with Fusarium and the results have been promising.

He maintained that the genetically-modified bananas are very much safe for human consumption.

Fusarium wilt, now with tropical race 4 strain, is a soil borne fungus that attacks the roots of the banana plants and turns leaves into wilted yellow.

Its original strain, which first emerged in Panama, was highly that destructive and had wiped out banana plantations.

The disease has infested banana plantations in parts of Mindanao, with around 15,500 hectares accounted in the Davao region.

Dr. Remedios Flamiano, local banana grower, said the disease could eventually wipe out banana plantations in the region and even the entire country if it remained uncontrolled.

“We need to intervene now while the disease incidence is not yet extensive,” she said.

Region 12, which has more than 100 active banana growers, hosts about 32,800 hectares of banana plantations that produce around one million metric tons of banana annually. (MindaNews)