New hope for bananas
The multibillion-dollar global banana industry, at risk from a deadly disease, could be saved by a scientific breakthrough by an Australian university. The Queensland University of Technology has genetically modified Cavendish bananas using a wild gene, resulting in strongly resistant and Panama (TR4) disease-free plants across a three-year trial. Trial leader Professor James Dale said it was a major step towards protecting the US$12 billion (NZ$17.5b) Cavendish global export business. ‘‘TR4 can remain in the soil for more than 40 years, and there is no effective chemical control for it. It is a huge problem,’’ he said. The disease has devastated Cavendish plantations in many parts of the world and is spreading rapidly across Asia, and was found at a far north Queensland farm earlier this year.