INTERNATIONAL fruit production and marketing giant, Dole Food Company, has detailed its plan for dealing with the crippling Panama Tropical Race 4 disease, declaring a long term solution must be found.
It comes one year since a TR4 presence was confirmed in Colombia, Latin America, a main source of the company's produce.
After the discovery, Dole swiftly ramped-up its TR4 response plan, implementing site-specific TR4 prevention activities throughout Latin America in coordination with local authorities and international experts to contain and prevent spread.
A three-year containment program was immediately implemented in 2019 to ensure biosecurity protocols in every Dole banana farm, as well as those of Dole's independent suppliers.
Dole has committed to sharing its best practice methods with independent growers and to engage with governments, multi-stakeholder initiatives and industry partners to ensure that its actions are coordinated with the wider response, both in Latin America and globally.
Dole Tropical Products director of innovation research and development, Patricio Gutiérrez, said fortunately to date, the spread of the disease in Latin America has been contained to only the La Guajira region of Colombia.
"But this issue is not isolated to one region or one banana grower; it affects the entire industry and we must all be vigilant," Mr Gutiérrez said.
"Containment alone is not sufficient. We must find ways to move beyond defense and find a sustainable solution to this issue in the long-term."
Dole is exploring a number of potential resolutions.
One such solution the company is investigating is how to implement safe and approved biological control measures to prevent disease.
When and if either these efforts or the other work being done by third parties succeed, Dole intends to be part of the discussion on how to make the solution available to banana growers worldwide.
Additionally, Dole is working closely with research institutions around the world toward developing a disease resistant banana variety through crop improvement and conventional breeding methods.
Since 2016, Dole has participated in a consortium working in partnership with the Honduran Research Foundation (FHIA) on the development of banana varieties that are resistant to TR4.
"Although developing a new kind of banana through traditional breeding is painstaking work, the research team is making good progress and a number of lines are currently being pot or field tested for TR4 resistance," a statement from Dole said.
More recently, Dole began collaborating with companies working on precision biotechnology as a means to develop TR4 resistant bananas and is also part of the Global Alliance against TR4 led by IICA and Bayer in collaboration with other large banana stakeholders.
"When and if either these efforts or the other work being done by third parties succeed, Dole intends to be part of the discussion on how to make the solution available to banana growers worldwide," it said.
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