These Golden Bananas Could Save The Lives Of Many Children In Uganda

Evrard Martin
Juillet 11, 2017

To tackle this, scientists in Australia have developed a revolutionary new type of banana that is rich in vitamin A.

He added it had been estimated that 650,000 to 700,000 children worldwide die from pro-vitamin A deficiency each year, with a further several hundred thousand going blind. Here people eat the East African Highland cooking banana, which is an excellent source of starch, but has low levels of micronutrients, including pro-vitamin A and iron. "It is harvested green, then chopped and steamed", he said.

Writing in Wiley's Plant Biotechnology journal, Professor James Dale, who led the research, said: "Over the years, we've been able to develop a banana that has achieved excellent provitamin A levels, hence the golden-orange rather than cream-coloured flesh". "The consequences of vitamin A deficiency are severe".

The bananas were created by taking genes from a species of provitamin A-rich banana found in Papa New Guinea, which only grows in small bunches.

"Achieving these scientific results along with their publication, is a major milestone in our quest to deliver a more nutritional diet to some of the poorest subsistence communities in Africa", Prof Dale said.

Professor Dale made it clear that, although the technology was based in Australia, the aim was to have a Ugandan research team actively contributing to the solution. The team tried and tested hundreds of different genetic variations, before settling on the final recipe. Test tubes containing the necessary genes have been sent to Uganda, where they have been inserted into local bananas for field trials.

If initial field trials are successful, the researchers hope that their bananas will be self-sufficiently grown by Ugandan farmers by as early as 2021.

Professor Dale said another really pleasing aspect of the project was the fact that young Ugandan students, who came to QUT to undertake their studies, had now completed their PhDs and were overseeing the research and field trials in Uganda.

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