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Healthier, Tastier, Safer: The Genetically Modified Banana That's Creating Buzz!

Approved by FSANZ, the banana line has been genetically modified for resistance to Panama disease.

Shreetu Singh
Courtesy: Pexels
Courtesy: Pexels

A recognizable achievement in the field of agriculture and genetic engineering - the very first genetically modified banana has been approved for consumption. The variety named, QCAV-4, has been created by a team at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia to get rid of the Panama Tropical Race 4 fungal disease. 

The Reason Behind the Innovation

Tropical Race 4 was found in the Northern Territory and Queensland first. It killed many varieties of banana including Cavendish, a widely eaten variety in Western countries. The disease is caused by a soil-borne fungus Fusarium odoratissimum which is ineradicable and can live for decades even without the host. Yellowing of the leaf and wilting were the main symptoms of the disease.

Panama TR4 can be readily transmitted through various means such as human activities, vehicle transportation, machinery operations, and animal interactions. This transmission occurs through the movement of infected banana plants and planting materials, as well as contaminated soil and water. Panama TR4 has swiftly expanded its presence across Laos, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Borneo, Indonesia, mainland China, the Philippines, Jordan, Mozambique, Pakistan, Lebanon, Oman, and India.

A Threat to Banana Production

Panama TR4 is a significant threat to global banana production, with devastating impacts observed in several countries. In Far North Queensland, where 95% of Australia's bananas are grown, the industry supports regional communities with income, jobs, and produce. Without effective management, the fungus could severely affect production, livelihoods, and communities reliant on the industry.


There is currently no cure for Panama TR4, leading affected plants to become unproductive and eventually die, significantly reducing crop yield. Backyard banana plantings in Queensland would also be affected. While the fungus does not infect fruit, it impacts plant health, posing a serious concern for banana cultivation.

A Step Towards Sustainability

Considering the issue, Agricultural Scientist, James Dale, and his team from QUT used genetic engineering and incorporated a gene from Musa acumunata ssp malaccensis, a wild variety of banana into a popular variety, Cavendish. He then created QCAV-4 which is not only resistant to the disease but is a boon for the banana cultivators. The availability of disease-resistant bananas can contribute to the establishment of sustainable and secure food production systems, aligning with the objectives of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Approval by Australia and New Zealand

The variety received approval from Food Standard Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) for consumption on February 16, 2024, declaring it safe and nutritious as normal bananas. It received a license for commercial growth on February 12, 2024. There are 60 days for the food ministers of these two countries to request for a review of the decision after which the approval will be finalized. 

Looking Ahead

If cultivated, food derived from the disease-resistant genetically modified banana would primarily be accessible in Australia as fresh fruit. Additionally, it may find applications in processed food products such as dried or frozen bananas, banana pulp, and various baked goods.


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