Ever wondered the banana you get at the store doesn’t contain any seeds. So, how does the banana tree reproduce, then? Well if you go into the wild and check a banana, then probably you will find seeds. In fact, they take up much of the fruit, making the flesh hard to eat.
The commercial bananas (which are mostly the Cavendish variety) have been bred over the years, and they are mostly seedless triploids ( having three sets of genes) which do not form mature seeds. Every single Cavendish banana is the same. They are actually clones, from one single banana.
You must have noticed the little black dots in the middle of the banana; this is the immature seeds which won’t develop and becomes triploids.
Commercial banana trees are usually reproduced by using banana pups instead of using seeds. The banana tree forms rhizomes which form into a little tree known as a pup that can be removed and planted elsewhere.They are made sterile, and every new banana plant has to be manually planted from a cutting of existing banana roots.
The homogeneity is very risky. If a disease infects the Cavendish, all could be affected very quickly. This has happened before!
Back to wild bananas.
They were domesticated over 7000 years ago and had been selectively bred to have really tiny non-fertile seeds. Wild bananas usually contain hard seeds which are big and have tiny flesh. Check out the picture below:
Without the genetic modification by using selective breeding, bananas would have been almost inedible!
GMO Super bananas the next “super food”?
Scientists have announced that they have modified the bananas to increase their vitamin A levels, which claims to save millions of malnourished people from going blind from vitamin A deficiency (VAD) or even death.
They are using a technique that doesn’t require any other genomes but just by pulling the existing banana DNA. The super banana is a “genetically engineered organism” (GEO) rather than the more controversial genetically modified organism (GMO). But why super banana?
Worldwide, VAD is responsible for an estimated 5 lakh cases of blindness and up to 2 million deaths each year, targeting children and pregnant women mainly. And it is sad because VAD is one of the most easily cured illnesses, that needs only a simple vitamin supplement.
“Good science can make a massive difference here by enriching staple crops such as Ugandan bananas with pro-vitamin A and providing poor and subsistence-farming populations with nutritionally rewarding food,” said the project leader, Professor James Dale from Australia’s the Queensland University of Technology.
The super banana is set to start clinical trials in the U.S. with the hopes of distributing it to African growers by 2020. The only change that can be seen is the flesh of the banana which is more orange than white.