Food and Drinks Scientists develop GM bananas to overcome vitamin A deficiency

Scientists develop GM bananas to overcome vitamin A deficiency

-

SYDNEY — Australian scientists have created genetically modified bananas with high levels of provitamin A, as a strategy to overcome vitamin A deficiency in developing countries, researcher Professor James Dales from the Queensland University of Technology told Xinhua on Friday.

Beginning in 2005, the project has begun to plant the new bananas in Uganda and are looking to expand across East Africa.

“The worst outcome of vitamin A deficiency is death and the second worst outcome is permanent blindness,” Dales explained, “It also leads to impaired immune systems and impaired brain development.”

“Even conservative estimates say that around 700,000 kids die every year of vitamin A deficiency.”

The reason why vitamin A deficiency is such a large problem in developing countries is because subsistence farmers depend on a limited number of staple foods like rice, potatoes and maize, or cooking-bananas.

“These are very, very starchy foods, high in energy, however, they are low in micronutrients like provitamin A and iron,” Dales said.

Despite the significant health issue, Dales is adamant the problem can be fixed simply by increasing the intake of either vitamin A or provitamin A.

“We are working on provitamin A, which is alpha beta-keratin, the plant source which is converted into vitamin A in the human body,” Dales said.

“To do this we generate embryogenic cell suspension, which are single cells from bananas, a little bit like stem cells.”

“Then we insert a gene from another type of banana that’s high in provitamin A into that cell and we can generate a whole banana from that process.”

Despite hugely successful results during growing trials in Australia’s North Queensland, the fruit will not be available to eat in Uganda for a further six years, due to the nation’s regulatory testing system.

But Dales expects locals to receive the positive health effects by 2025.

Although the researcher admits he’s been met with some scepticism from people with concerns about genetically modified food, “when I go through what we are doing, why we are doing it and how we are doing it, rarely do I get criticism.”

“Our project is so different to all of the projects that people are concerned about,” Dales said.

“We don’t work for a large multinational, we aren’t controlling the genetic resources and we are doing something that is both for the farmer and the consumer.”

When it comes to the flavour of the new designer banana and whether the increased level of provitamin A has any effect, Dales said, “they taste exactly the same!” (Xinhua)

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest news

Explainer: what is a ‘state of disaster’ and what powers does it confer?

By Anne Twomey, University of Sydney A “state of disaster” has been declared for...

How did we get to stage 4 in Melbourne and what new restrictions are in place

By Adrian Esterman, University of South Australia Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has declared that...

Takeaway coffee allowed, but no wandering through Bunnings: here’s why Melbourne’s new business restrictions will reduce cases

By Philip Russo, Monash University and Brett Mitchell, University of Newcastle Victorian Premier Daniel...

The ACCC is suing Google for misleading millions. But calling it out is easier than fixing it

By Katharine Kemp, UNSW Australia’s consumer watchdog is suing Google for allegedly misleading millions...

Explainer: why is the South China Sea such a hotly contested region?

By Greg Austin, UNSW In the past week, both the US and Australia rejected...

America has corn and Asia has rice. It’s time Australia had a native staple food

By Angela Pattison, University of Sydney; Rebecca Cross, University of Sydney, and Tina Bell, University of Sydney

Must read

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you