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On [February 15], a group of well-fed students and jumpers-on will march with signs. In a world full of actionable atrocities, these folks have centered their time and energies on a scourge that threatens the progress of mankind.
A dozen [Iowa State University] students will be paid to eat bananas that carry a banana gene that allows the fruit to produce beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A. The orange stuff in carrots. . .
. . . . Twelve lucky students would get $900 to eat bananas and then have their blood monitored for Vitamin A bioavailability. Five-hundred students answered the solicitation. . .
The bananas make more beta-carotene because of the installation of a banana gene. Dr. James Dale from Queensland University of Technology developed the new banana, transferring a gene from a wild banana from Fiji to the bananas consumed as daily food in Uganda and other parts of Africa. There they might represent 70 percent of the dietary calories. You can hear Dr. Dale talk about it on my podcast, here.
The news says that protesters have a petition with over 57,000 signatures condemning this test.
Someday when health problems are solved with a banana that delivers the nutrition of a carrot, I'd like to send them a note reminding them that their privilege stood in the way of progress that saved lives.
Read full, original post: A Protest Over Bananas in Iowa
NOTE: Dr. Folta followed up his original post with a new one, posted, February 15, titled Answering Students' Questions about Bananas. He addressed the following issues:
Give a brief explanation of why you are here, your area of expertise, and how you can apply your expertise to this critical dialogue.
Do you think this banana will impact the issue of malnutrition, and the connected issue of hunger, in Uganda and East Africa? If so, how? If not, what alternative solutions might help address these issues?
There are concerns that the design of this study is inadequate, particularly testing these bananas on female ISU students who are not the intended target of these Vitamin A enriched bananas. Given this critique, how was the research designed and how have safety concerns been addressed? (If you are not involved in the research process for these bananas, what concerns, if any, do you have concerning the safety or validity of the testing procedure or the potential impacts on the intended recipients in Eastern Africa?)
Ideally, how should public universities be involved in GM biofortification and human testing? And to what extent is transparency, particularly regarding control or ownership of these technologies, important, particularly when dealing with staple food crops?
Finally, what critical issue or issues concerning this study have been left unaddressed or inadequately discussed thus far in our conversation? Perhaps consider your closing perspective on the issue.