The ‘super banana’ designed to save lives
A “super banana” has been created at Uganda's National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL) for the noblest of causes: to save the lives of thousands of children who die in Uganda every year from vitamin A deficiency. This ground breaking—and vitamin-packed—genetically modified banana could change that.
Nakitembe Matooke slice (left) and Fortified banana (right) - PHOTO By: NAROBANANA
The National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) holds up a genetically modified banana that took millions of dollars and 20 years to make. It contains so much provitamin A, a substance that transforms into vitamin A in the body, that its flesh has a distinctive orange tint.
This “super banana” was created at Uganda's National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL) for the noblest of causes: to save the lives of thousands of children who die in Uganda every year from vitamin A deficiency. Scientists have long crossbred banana plants to improve resistance to pests, fungus, or drought. But fortifying bananas to deliver nutrients to humans who eat them is a first.
The breakthrough is the result of a partnership of the lab in Kawanda, where Prof. Wilberforce Tushemereirwe serves as director, James Dale, an Australian agricultural scientist and banana expert, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which invested $11 million in one of the longest running research projects the foundation has ever undertaken. Wilberforce was 44 in 2005, when work began on Banana21, as the project is known, and is 65 today.
One hurdle remains: gaining government approval in the face of vocal opposition to genetically modified crops. Legislation to regulate and promote development of GMOs has been in the works in the Ugandan Parliament since the early 2000s but has not yet been signed into law.
Article by: AGOSTINO PETRONI, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
Read Full Article on Nationalgeographic.com: LINK