Genetically modified foods get a lot of negative attention, but sometimes GMOs can be a good thing. New genetically engineered bananas may soon be grown in low-income communities in order to prevent vitamin A deficiency and related health issues such as blindness and even death. Researchers boosted standard bananas with alpha- and beta-carotene to turn them into super bananas capable of meeting children’s nutritional needs.
Every year over 650,000 children die from lack of Vitamin A, but these bananas – currently undergoing human trials in the U.S. – could help prevent many of those deaths from occurring. Lack of Vitamin A is also responsible for at least 300,000 children going blind every year, something that could easily be prevented. But food shortages in Uganda and other places means that babies and children don’t always get the nutrition that they need while growing. That’s where these new bananas, which have an orange rather than yellow flesh, come into the picture.
The project is backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is taking place at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia. Right now, the bananas are undergoing a six week trial to determine if they can be used as a good source of nutrition. Initially, scientists attempted to crossbreed native bananas with karat fruit, but eventually turned to genetic modification to get the results they need. And so far, those results have been promising. Researchers believe that as soon as trials are over, modified banana trees can start growing in places like Uganda by 2020.