Pinoy farmers raise concerns over banana-attacking fungus

Jay Dayupay, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 28 2017 03:01 AM

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Banana growers in south-central Mindanao have expressed worries over a fungus threatening banana plantations across the country.

The fungus is known as Fusarium, which blocks water and nutrients going to the leaves of a banana plant, thereby killing it.

Dr. Remedios Flamiano, a banana grower and chairperson of the Mindanao State University Department of Biology and Chemistry, said several fungi have threatened bananas in the past but nothing as dangerous as the Fusarium.

“Ang ating mga banana plantation ngayon [ay] being threatened by this Fusarium or yung sinasabi nilang Panama disease. Itong Panama disease kung hindi natin ma-control, this can actually wipe out the entire banana industry in the Philippines," she said during the first Scientific Conference of Philippine Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

James Dale, professor of biotechnology at the Queensland University of Technology, said although the fungus is a serious threat, it can be solved.

Dale, who is currently in General Santos City, told ABS-CBN News that he and his team are planning to introduce a Fusarium-resistant banana variety.

“What we are doing is to ultimately control this disease, this requires resistance. We would like to breed a new banana, not a Cavendish, something that is different, but resistant to fusarium," he said.

Gene said the process would require getting a gene from a wild banana and then putting it in a Cavendish to make it highly resistant to Fusarium, if not totally resistant.

Although the finished product is genetically modified, Dale explained that it is still safe to consume since there are no toxins involved because only the resistant gene of a wild banana would be used.

“Oh yes, it couldn’t be safer!" Dale said.