Gene editing brings non-browning bananas to the market

Overripe bananas may soon become just a memory, at least in the Philippines.

Tropical Biosciencesa UK-based start-up has used gene editing to eliminate the browning fruit and mitigate the havoc it wreaks.

Currently, more than 60% of exported bananas are wasted before reaching the consumer. According to Tropic, the non-browning version could reduce food waste and CO2 emissions in supply chains by more than 25%. In terms of CO2 reduction, the impact is comparable to taking 2 million passenger cars off the road every year.

For the Philippines, there is a more urgent appeal. The country is the main producer and exporter of bananas in Southeast Asia, but is ravaged by a devastating plant disease. Known as Panama TR4, the disease threatens 80% of global banana production – and there is no cure for it.

Tropic may have a solution: processing bananas to make them disease resistant. Unsurprisingly, the Philippine government has welcomed the prospect.

In a press release last month, Tropic announced that Philippine officials have given the go-ahead for the bananas not turning brown. Under the country’s newly defined gene editing rules, the product can now be freely imported and propagated.

“The Philippine government has implemented a science-based, transparent and efficient process for assessing the safety of gene-edited plants,” said Dr. Ofir Meir, Tropic’s Chief Technology Officer.

“This is exactly the type of system that encourages companies like Tropic to invest in innovative technologies to develop sustainable solutions for Philippine farmers.”

Ophir Meir