Despite ongoing controversy about the safety of GMO foods, human trials are about to begin on a GM banana that has the potential to drastically reduce infant morality and malnutrition in Africa, reports the Independent.
The GMO banana, which was developed by Australian scientists and backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is a vitamin A-enriched version of a common East African cooking banana. Vitamin A deficiency is estimated to kill up to 700,000 children annually and causes about 300,000 cases of blindness globally each year, so the enriched banana has the potential to significantly impact public health for the better. This is especially the case in Africa, where as many as 70 percent of the population in some countries rely on cooked banana for the bulk of their nutrition.
Researchers are optimistic that human trials will be successful and that their genetically enhanced banana will go into commercial production in Uganda by 2020.
“Good science can make a massive difference here by enriching staple crops such as Ugandan bananas with pro-vitamin A and providing poor and subsistence-farming populations with nutritionally rewarding food… We know our science will work,” said professor James Dale, who is leading the nine-year banana project at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane…