From Australia, to the USA, then off to Africa
Bananas in western, industrialized nations are a matter of course. It’s a healthy snack and a popular flavor choice. However, the banana is a staple food for almost all of East Africa and unfortunately lacks vitamin A and iron. That is why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded the project by around $10 million. If the bananas pass the upcoming human trials, the bananas will be off to Africa where Ugandan farmers can grow them. The genetically modified bananas will undergo human trails starting next week. Since 2005, the project at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia, has been underway and led by Professor James Dale, director of the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities at the university. Dale has plenty of confidence in the project. “Hundreds of different permutations went into the field trials up north and we tested everything to make sure our science worked here in Queensland,” stated Dale.
However, genetically modified foods are highly controversial. GM foods have been biologically changed in a laboratory in order to enhance their most desirable features. Briefly, genetically modified foods are beneficial for resisting pests and disease, tolerating cold and drought climates, and increasing nutritional value. On the other hand, it is argued that genetically modified foods can have harmful effects on surrounding plants, animals, and humans. This website provides detailed information on genetically modified foods.
Dire Outcomes of Vitamin A Shortages
According to Professor Dale, the health-related consequences of vitamin A deficiencies can be drastic. Vitamin A deficiencies can lead to blindness and, in worst cases, death. Dale also claims there is evidence of vitamin A deficiencies causing impaired immune systems and even affecting brain development, which poses a more dramatic threat to children and pregnant women. There are over 100 million vitamin A deficient children. Bananas that are rich in vitamin A have a much more orange flesh, while the outside looks like any normal banana. Bananas in East Africa are traditionally cooked before being eaten. All though the use of GMOs is a controversial topic, their ability to increase nutritional value in foods seems like a valuable tool for developing countries. We’ll see if the bananas make it all the way to Africa.