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The joys of a GM banana

Graphica Artis/Getty Images

After getting my genetically engineered Covid jab, I had a “celebratory brunch” in a café where the food was “proudly marked ‘GM-free’”, says Camilla Cavendish in the Financial Times. It doesn’t make sense. Gene-edited produce is shunned and labelled “Frankenfood”, but the practice could “transform” farming, providing disease-resistant, higher-yield crops. My namesake, the Cavendish banana, is one of the fruit’s bestselling varieties, but is on the verge of being “wiped out” by a devastating fungus. The only way to save it is to insert a gene from wild bananas that could resist the disease. It sounds unnatural – but the Cavendish banana, like pretty much everything else we eat, derives from centuries of selective breeding and cloning.

Genetic engineering can also tackle farming’s “huge carbon footprint”. It could end our dependence on fertilisers that use fossil fuels, make crops more resilient to changing temperatures, “engineer rice to produce less methane” and help us to grow meat in laboratories. Vitamin A deficiency causes blindness in many parts of southeast Asia, but “golden rice”, a GM crop, has added genes that produce betacarotene, a source of the vitamin. Now we’ve left the EU, we have an opportunity to regulate GM foods intelligently, focusing on safety instead of fears about “killer tomatoes”. I’d rather eat a slightly tweaked Cavendish banana than never eat one again.

Read the full article here (paywall).