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Fast Company has a story detailing the threat presented by a banana-killing fungus that is threatening the very existence of the Cavendish variety, which is ubiquitous in US supermarkets.

According to the story, "In late January, when the Venezuelan government announced that it had detected a banana-killing fungus on farms in some areas, it was the latest outbreak of a disease that has been slowly spreading around the world. Last year, Peru declared a state of emergency when it detected the same disease. In Colombia, where the fungus was discovered in 2019, hundreds of acres of banana trees were destroyed in an attempt to stop it from spreading.

"First discovered in Taiwan in the 1990s, the fungus spread through Asia to the Middle East and Africa before ending up in Central and South America. Once it’s in the soil, it stays there, so the land can no longer be used to grow bananas.

"No good solution exists yet. But on a Dole banana plantation in Central America, a new field trial will soon test Cavendish bananas that have been gene edited in an attempt to help them survive the fungus. Elo Life Systems, the biotech company that developed the bananas, used data analytics to quickly sort through the genomes of other varieties (and other plants) that are naturally resistant to the disease."

The story notes that "since it takes time for the trees to grow, the new plants at the Dole plantation aren’t yet proven. But in the lab, the gene-edited bananas survived high doses of the fungus. Now they’ll be grown and tested in Dole’s nurseries, and then moved into fields that are not in use because they’re infected with the fungus. By the end of next year, researchers should know whether the plants can survive and perform as well as the original banana trees. Other startups are also racing to test gene-edited bananas."

KC's View:

One of the interesting things about this story is that it points out that as climate change makes it harder to grow all sorts of crops, we're likely to see more gene editing taking place to keep the food flow sustainable.  Which may dismay some people, but may absolutely be necessary.