Vitamin-enhanced golden bananas could save millions of African lives—and corporations won’t own the patent

goldenbanana
A regular banana (right) compared to a golden banana (left). Thanks to the increased level of beta-carotene, the banana has a golden cream color.

Bananas are one of the world’s staple crops. In West Africa, they’re as important to the local diet as rice is to East Asia or potatoes were to the Irish. In parts of Uganda, the typical diet includes more than two pounds of bananas a day.

Not all bananas lack vitamin A, but the ones they eat in Uganda do. You could try to crossbreed them with a vitamin-rich variety, but unfortunately, that wouldn’t work. Domesticated bananas are sterile.

So scientists used genetic modification. Using genes from a vitamin-A-rich (but hard-to-grow) strain called Fe’i, QUT professor James Dale and his team loaded commercially viable banana seedlings with beta-carotene, a source of vitamin A.

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It took some experimenting, but they were able to up the beta-carotene content in the fruit by more than 30 times — hopefully, enough to stave off vitamin A deficiency.

This particular project was just a proof of concept, but Dale and his colleagues have now given the technology to local Ugandan scientists, who’ll start experimenting with Ugandan banana plants.

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People could be planting, eating, and sharing the golden bananas as soon as 2021.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: These stunning golden bananas may make you feel differently about GMOs.

 

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