Iowa State students protest trials of GMO banana developed to combat Vitamin A deficiency

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The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis.

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 bananassssthe 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:

Ugandan researcher Stephen Buah and Professor James Dale hold bananas bred to be rich in vitamin A at Queensland University of Technology

Ugandan researcher Stephen Buah and Professor James Dale hold bananas bred to be rich in vitamin A at Queensland University of Technology

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.

  • Diana Pena

    Oh, snap. Folta refuting BS like a baller!

  • Eric Bjerregaard

    I hope this test is successful and that the ISU administration has the spinal strength to tell the protesters to get lost. These are truly deluded students and the older ones doing the deluding are Flat slap evil.

    • Realist

      Eric, you are absolutely correct. I am a graduate of Iowa State and sorry to see that some of the students are so ignorant.

      • Eric Bjerregaard

        Thanks, We all have our crosses to bear. I am a Michigan fan. We have to explain Michael Hanson.

  • GM Rumsey

    Why test them at ISU when Queensland University has more than enough students to use for this test? How accurate can the testing be when these students are not likely to be deficient in Vitamin A? Also, I’m aware that too much vitamin A can cause health issues. Would it not make more sense to test on those who are deficient and see if they help?

    • Eric Bjerregaard

      Read the article. That question is answered.

      • GM Rumsey

        I read the article and it did not answer my questions. I also looked into Dr. White and nothing states she is the only one capable of doing this testing and understanding the results.

        • Eric Bjerregaard

          Read it again. All of your questions are answered. No one said “only” one. What was said is that she is very good.

    • Dominick Dickerson

      Iowa State has the world expert in beta carotene absorption.

      do you have any more irrelevant objections?

      • GM Rumsey

        I asked a few questions. There is no reason to be rude.

    • gmoeater

      Why don’t you ask Queensland university to do a study, since you seem to feel so strongly that they should?

  • Good4U

    Good way to go, & thanks to all the dedicated, hard working professionals who made this possible. Next step should be bananas transformed to be resistant to Fusarium wilt race 4.

  • Mary M.

    $900 to eat bananas! Bananas fortified with Vitamin A. Sign me up please!

  • agscienceliterate

    Yuppie brats who oppose the study don’t have to participate. Hope this study goes well!