Genetically Modified Superbanana
Genetically Modified Superbanana: An international team of scientists has reportedly developed a genetically modified “super banana” that contains significantly more nutrients, particularly vitamin A, which has been a persistent problem in poor countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia for centuries.
Vitamin A deficiency can lead to stunted growth, blindness, and increased susceptibility to deadly treatable diseases such as diarrhea and measles. The World Health Organization estimates that 190 million preschool-aged children worldwide suffer from vitamin A deficiency, and malnutrition alone accounts for 6% of early childhood deaths in Africa.
Fortunately, a possible solution to malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency may be available very shortly. Uganda, one of several African countries battling malnutrition, may be the source of the cure.
Researchers from Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Laboratories, in collaboration with Australian agricultural scientist James Dale and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have reportedly created a genetically modified banana that contains all the necessary nutrients to combat malnutrition.
The Banana21 project was launched in 2005, and after 18 years of investments, hard work, and failed attempts, scientists have finally created a banana that could save millions of children’s lives.
While genetic modifications in banana trees to better resist pests, fungus, or drought are well documented, this is reportedly the first time a banana has been successfully altered to serve as a nutritional supplement for humans.
According to National Geographic, the super banana is ready to be cultivated, but scientists are still waiting for approval from the local government.
This may be a significant hurdle, given the strong opposition to the cultivation of genetically modified foods in Uganda, where such crops are currently strictly forbidden.
It is hoped that lawmakers will follow the example of their Kenyan counterparts, who recently lifted a decade-long ban on GM crops.
It is worth noting that the problem of vitamin A deficiency has all but disappeared in economically developed countries thanks to vitamin A supplementation programs. These programs have led to a significant reduction in the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency and related health problems.
However, such programs may not be feasible or sustainable in economically disadvantaged areas, where access to supplements and fortified foods may be limited or costly.
The development of genetically modified crops with enhanced nutritional content has the potential to address this problem and improve public health outcomes in these areas.