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NPR Science Friday: Fighting Banana Blight In A North Carolina Greenhouse

April 19, 2024

Cavendish bananaBananas are the world’s most popular fruit. Americans eat nearly 27 pounds per person every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A deadly fungus could destroy most of the world’s crops, but a company in Research Triangle Park is trying to save the banana through gene editing.

When it comes to growing bananas, RTP may not be the first place that pops in your head. But Matt DiLeo has a greenhouse full of them.

DiLeo is Vice President of Research and Development at Elo Life Systems, a biotechnology firm that’s exploring how gene editing can improve fruits and vegetables.

On a cloudy afternoon in early April, DiLeo opened the greenhouse door and stepped into a steamy atmosphere with a slightly floral odor. This greenhouse is packed floor to ceiling with banana trees. You’ve got to duck to keep the giant leaves from hitting your face. Some of the bananas are yellow, some are green, some are tiny and pink. DiLeo says they all share an important trait.

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