Australia’s Gene Technology Regulator has authorized the ‘limited and controlled’ release of a banana genetically modified to be resistant for resistance to Fusarium wilt, also known as Panama disease.
The entity said it had invited submissions on the Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan (RARMP) on Oct. 13 for the application from Queensland University of Technology, and has now decided the researchers can move to field trials.
“The release is authorised to take place at one site of up to 6 hectares in Litchfield Municipality, Northern Territory, for a period of 5 years,” the Gene Technology Regulator said.
“The purpose of the field trial is to evaluate the level of disease resistance and agronomic performance of the GM banana plants under Australian field conditions.
“The GM banana is not permitted to be used for human food or animal feed. In addition to requirements by the Regulator, this field trial will remain subject to State and Territory laws that cover the cultivation and transport of bananas and control of plant diseases, including Banana Freckle disease.”
The devastating Panama disease tropical race IV was detected for the first time in Queensland last year, causing concern in the banana industry.
The different types of GM banana plants will each contain one introduced gene out of the ten candidate genes being tested. The genes are intended to provide resistance to the fungal disease Fusarium wilt.
The candidate genes are from bananas, except for one which is from a soil nematode. The GM banana plants may also contain a marker gene, from a common bacterium that allowed the GM plants to be selected during their initial development in the laboratory.
The regulator said its decision to issue the license was made after consultation on the RARMP with the public, state and territory governments and agencies.
It added it had considered all submissions provided during the consultation process that related to the health and safety of people or the protection of the environment.
“The finalised RARMP concludes that this limited and controlled release poses negligible risks to people and the environment and does not require specific risk treatment measures,” it said.
“However, licence conditions have been imposed to restrict spread and persistence of the GMOs and their genetic material in the environment and to limit the release in size, location and duration, as these were important considerations in the evaluation process.”