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Saving the banana

SCIENCE

For decades it has been argued the only way to save the banana from the dreaded black Sigatoka fungus was to genetically modify them. Not so, it seems.


Using organic and ‘agroecological’ production methods, a new variety of banana, Pointe d’Or, goes on sale this month in France, according to Food Navigator. Pointe d’Or was developed by the banana industry in Guadeloupe and Martinique together with an alliance launched by the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD).

Commercial bank growing lacks genetic diversity. Just one variety is grown for the export markets, the Cavendish, which is now widely prone to disease.

While CIRAD supports more genetic diversity, that alone “will not be enough” to safeguard the banana supply. It stressed “appropriate cropping systems” will need to be developed, with the aim of boosting biodiversity and cutting pesticide use.

The banana industry in Guadeloupe and Martinique bred the Pointe d'Or using selective breeding. It has also developed an “agroecological cultivation system”, employing biological control methods. Breeder Frédéric Salmon of CIRAD said Pointe d'Or has ‘natural resistance’ to black Sigatoka and doesn't require any pesticides, a feature that “opens the way to the production of an organic banana in the West Indies”.​

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