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Banana lovers rejoice - Israeli company develops bug-resistant bananas

Stored under Caption This!GamesMiscellaneousNewsRecipesRelated EBay AuctionsReviewsVideosVisual Stimulation on September 28, 2006

If you eat five bananas a week, there's a good chance that one of them has its genetic origins in Israel.

Driving north of Nahariya towards the Lebanese border, you pass fields and fields of banana crops at nearby Achziv as well as on Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra. It's at the latter kibbutz where biotech company Rahan Meristem (1998) LTD, a world leader in banana biotechnology, has its offices and laboratories.

"We're the largest producer of banana tissue cultured plants in the world - producing about 10 million a year. They're sold all around the world. We calculated that approximately 20% of the bananas that are marketed throughout the western world originated or were selected at Rahan," said Dr. Eli Khayat, head of research and development at Rahan and a professor of plant biology at Hebrew University and the Technion.

"Most of our research is on bananas - trying to improve the quality of the crop - using molecular genetics to breed bananas that ripen slower and have a longer shelf life," he told ISRAEL21c. "These are parameters which are important to both the grower and the consumer. Our goal is to breed plants, and given that bananas are seedless, the only means to produce elite clones is by genetic engineering."

With a total production of approximately 60 million tons per year, banana and plantains (bananas which are grown for cooking) have become a major crop worldwide, exported from tropical countries to almost every part of the globe. But as a result of its natural sterility, most banana varieties have yet to be genetically improved via biotechnological tools.

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