The world’s first genetically-modified banana, developed in Australia, has received the greenlight for human consumption.

A team of Queensland University of Technology researchers submitted the genetically-modified Cavendish banana to regulators for approval last year.

Scientists say the fruit variety, the QCAV-4 banana, is the world’s first genetically-modified banana.

According to 7News, the researchers wanted “to safeguard the fruit industry against the soil-borne fungus, Panama disease tropical race 4.”

“It’s unlikely you’ll have the option to purchase the new QCAV-4 banana any time soon though. Modified to be resistant to Panama TR4 disease, it will not replace the common Cavendish variety. It’s approved for commercial sale, but the stated intention at present is to test out crops of the new QCAV-4 to ‘future proof’ the fruit industry if the Panama disease were to cause a threat. Scientists will also now tinker with “gene editing” to create a version of the QCAV-4 that’s resistant to other diseases,” independent journalist Rebekah Barnett wrote.


7News reports:

The new banana was bred by taking a standard Cavendish banana and adding a gene from a wild southeast Asian variety.

“QCAV-4 is a Cavendish Grand Nain banana that has been bioengineered with a single banana resistance gene, RGA2, from the wild, southeast Asian banana, Musa acuminata ssp malaccensis,” QUT said in a statement.

“Cavendish bananas already contain the RGA2 gene, but it is dormant.”

However there are no plans for QCAV-4 to be put on the shelves of Australian markets, despite the Australian government allowing it to be commercially sold.

Panama disease is contained in Queensland and standard Cavendish bananas are in plentiful supply.

“There’s really no necessity for it at the moment,” QUT Distinguished Professor James Dale, whose team developed QCAV-4, told 7NEWS.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has approved it as suitable for human consumption.

The Guardian reported in May 2023:

If approved, the banana would become Australia’s first GM fruit to be approved for cultivation and consumption, as well as the first GM banana to be approved worldwide.

Prof James Dale of the Queensland University of Technology, who led QCAV-4’s development, said the GM variety offered a safety net for growers in the event that the Australian industry was wiped out by TR4.

The research team is not planning on immediately releasing the banana for commercial production or consumption if approved.

There are between 300 and 1,000 varieties of banana globally, Dale estimates, but the Cavendish banana accounts for about half of commercial growing worldwide. “It has some disease resistance, it’s high yielding, it tastes pretty good and it travels well,” Dale said.

Cavendish bananas increased in popularity after an outbreak of Panama disease – the strain TR1 – wiped out plantations of the Gros Michel banana, which until the 1950s was the main commercial variety internationally.

In the 1990s a related fungus that affects Cavendish bananas, Panama TR4, was discovered in south-east Asia. It has has since spread to China, India and major banana-growing countries.

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