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Gates Foundation, GMO banana face renewed attacks

, | | November 25, 2014

The GLP posts this article or excerpt as part of a daily curated selection of biotechnology-related news, opinion and analysis.

Among the controversial projects funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the development and testing of a biofortified GMO banana developed to boost its iron, Vitamin E and proVitamin A content.

To this end the Foundation, via its Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative, has so far given $15 million to Queensland University of Technology for the program run by Professor Dr James Dale, with a latest tranche of $10 million handed over this year.

The declared purpose is to roll out nutritional benefits across the tropics, but initially to India, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda – all countries that suffer from widespread nutritional deficiencies.

And Dale is certainly enthusiastic, telling the Independent that “This project has the potential to have a huge positive impact on staple food products across much of Africa and in doing so lift the health and wellbeing of countless millions of people over generations.”

So what’s so controversial about that?

What Dale has done is to take the high beta-carotene banana gene for his GMO ‘super-bananas’ from an existing Fe’i banana variety from Papua New Guinea, following a study that compared ten cultivars with yellow to orange fruit.

The trouble is, this makes Dales’ GMO ‘super-banana’ a clear case of biopiracy. The original Asupina, collected 25 years earlier from Papua New Guinea and held by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries (Q-DPI), is the rightful property of the nation and the communities that developed it.

Could his real intention be to capture a commercial market in selling a premium, novelty ‘high nutrient’ banana to northern consumers? And in the process pave the way for other GMO bananas with commercially desirable qualities?

Read full, original article: Why is Bill Gates backing GMO red banana ‘biopiracy’?

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