Have you ever wondered why all bananas in supermarkets look alike and taste exactly the same? Because almost all exported bananas (Musa spp) are of a single cultivar, the Cavendish. Every single Cavendish is genetically identical; basically, they are all clones! So what?
Cavendish bananas are under a threat from a disease called Panama disease, also known as Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 4 (TR4) that is caused by a fungus. It is spreading very fast and has already destroyed many plantations in Asia and Australia and has recently spread to the Middle East and Africa. This is because Cavendish bananas do not have an active gene to fight off TR4. However, a wild banana from Indonesia does – the RGA2 gene.
Here, we added the RGA2 gene to Cavendish plants and tested them in fields infested with TR4. Three years later, some of these genetically modified(GM) plants resisted the fungus and stayed disease-free. That means we may have found a solution to control TR4 and help millions of people who rely on bananas for food and income.