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For Bananas

Australian researchers are turning to genetic engineering in a bid to save the banana, BBC News reports.

Cavendish bananas — the most popular kind — in Australia and parts of Asia have been hit by Panama disease, a soil fungus that infects its roots. In Australia, infected farms have been bought and then shut down in a bid to contain the disease. But at the same time, researchers are working on developing new, resistant banana varieties, BBC News adds.

Researchers are scouring wild bananas to find ones that are resistant to Panama disease and then introducing them into the common variety to develop disease resistant ones. However, it notes that consumers in Australia and the US are wary of genetically modified foods.

Queensland University of Technology's James Dale tells BBC News, though, that modified bananas may be more acceptable. "Bananas are essentially sterile, so the gene doesn't move around, once you put it in a banana, it's not going anywhere," he says. "This is a banana gene. It comes out of one banana and we just transferred it over to another."

But, the BBC notes, it may take five years for a resistant banana to be grown around the world.