Researcher has made golden bananas in an attempt to end vitamin deficiencies that causes blindness and death in children around the world.
Queensland University of Technology Distinguished Professor James Dale, has spent the past 12 years trying to improve the levels of pro-vitamin A in bananas, a staple food of rural Uganda and greater east Africa.
Professor Dale describes the development of the biofortified banana as a significant humanitarian project. The East African Highland cooking banana is an excellent source of starch. It harvested green then chopped and steamed, Professor Dale said.
But it has low levels of micro nutrients particularly pro-vitamin A and iron. The consequences of vitamin A deficiency are severe. He estimate 650,000-700,000 children world-wide die from pro-vitamin A deficiency each year with a further several hundred thousand going blind.
What we’ve done is take a gene from a banana that originated in Papua New Guinea and is naturally very high in pro-vitamin A but has small bunches, and inserted it into a Cavendish banana, Professor Dale said.
Over the years, we’ve been able to develop a banana that has achieved excellent pro-vitamin A levels, hence the golden-orange rather than cream-colored flesh.
Achieving these scientific results is a major milestone in our quest to deliver a more nutritional diet to some of the poorest subsistence communities in Africa. We tried and tested hundreds of different genetic variations in our lab and in field trials until we got the best results.
These elite genes sent to Uganda in test tubes where they inserts into Ugandan bananas for field trials there.
More information: [Willey Online Library]