'Super' banana to face first human trial

June 16, 2014
A super-enriched banana genetically engineered to improve the lives of millions of people in Africa will soon have its first human trial, shown here is a young girl in the Democratic Republic of Congo on November 3, 2013

A super-enriched banana genetically engineered to improve the lives of millions of people in Africa will soon have its first human trial, which will test its effect on vitamin A levels, Australian researchers said Monday.

The project plans to have the special banana varieties—enriched with alpha and which the body converts to vitamin A—growing in Uganda by 2020.

The bananas are now being sent to the United States, and it is expected that the six-week trial measuring how well they lift vitamin A levels in humans will begin soon.

"Good science can make a massive difference here by enriching such as Ugandan bananas with pro-vitamin A and providing poor and subsistence-farming populations with nutritionally rewarding food," said project leader Professor James Dale.

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) project, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, hopes to see conclusive results by year end.

"We know our science will work," Professor Dale said.

"We made all the constructs, the genes that went into bananas, and put them into bananas here at QUT."

Dale said the Highland or East African cooking banana was a in East Africa, but had low levels of micro-nutrients, particularly pro-vitamin A and iron.

"The consequences of vitamin A deficiency are dire with 650,000-700,000 children world-wide dying ... each year and at least another 300,000 going blind," he said.

Researchers decided that enriching the staple food was the best way to help ease the problem.

While the modified banana looks the same on the outside, inside the flesh is more orange than a cream colour, but Dale said he did not expect this to be a problem.

He said once the genetically modified bananas were approved for commercial cultivation in Uganda, the same technology could potentially be expanded to crops in other countries—including Rwanda, parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania.

"In West Africa farmers grow plantain and the same technology could easily be transferred to that variety as well," he said.

Explore further: Genetically modified plants hold the key to saving the banana industry

Related Stories

Disease threatens world's bananas, says UN

April 14, 2014

The United Nations warned on Monday of the potential "massive destruction" of the world's $5.0-billion (3.6-billion euro) a year banana crop as a plant disease spreads from Asia to Africa and the Middle East.

Banana genome helps fruit on the slippery slope

July 11, 2012

French scientists on Wednesday announced they had sequenced the DNA code of the banana, a vital crop whose future is darkened by emerging pests and complicated by its strangely inbred character.

Fighting Vitamin A Deficiency

March 12, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Rutgers scientists believe that they have found a way to fight vitamin A deficiency – a discovery they hope could be the answer to a global health problem linked to blindness, impaired immune systems, ...

Panama disease spreads among bananas—again

November 1, 2013

Panama disease is causing significant damage in banana cultivation in Southeast Asia. Together with a number of partners, scientists from Wageningen UR (University & Research centre) have demonstrated that the disease – ...

Recommended for you

The source of stem cells points to two proteins

December 11, 2018

Mammalian embryos are unlike those of any other organism as they must grow within the mother's body. While other animal embryos grow outside the mother, their embryonic cells can get right to work accepting assignments, such ...

'Pest-controlling' bats could help save rainforests

December 11, 2018

A new study shows that several species of bats are giving Madagascar's rice farmers a vital pest control service by feasting on plagues of insects. And this, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge believes, can ease the ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (6) Jun 16, 2014
Unless Humans figure out to Convert EACH & EVERY Herb & Shrub on the planet into a Giant Tree, There is NO HOPE!
The Plants do NOT have to Deliver Babies OR Lay Eggs as most Big ANIMALS do!
It is high time to Play with the DNA of Small Plants ASAP to make it all possible!
As usual, we can always start with useless herbs & shrubs!
Imagine What it will mean to eventually have Rice & Wheat Grains as big as Coconuts!
We can Sneak underneath such trees with proper protective Spring Cushioned Head gear & Armor, of course!
5 / 5 (4) Jun 16, 2014
put down the pipe and read some biology textbooks
1 / 5 (3) Jun 16, 2014
I don't think the monopolization of globalised banana production would help the already suffering biodiversity of banana plants prone to fungi and pests and the economical independency of their farmers. The GMO organisms often contain residua of cytotoxic virus vectors and RNA used in their production. They can induce the food allergies and changes in intestinal tract. The inclusion of genetically modified (GM) plants in the human diet has raised concerns about the transfer of transgenes from GM plants to intestinal microflora and enterocytes. The terminator genes may cause the the failure of harvest in whole areas and they could spread into wild.
5 / 5 (3) Jun 16, 2014
I'm pretty sure people freaked out when people started using tractors to harvest and plant crops instead of horses too...

For that matter they probably freaked when people started planting crops period instead of wandering around and bumping into food...
1 / 5 (2) Jun 16, 2014
Whenever Science goes against Religion, People start Freaking!
Comments too reveal that! No Problem because it will become quite evident once that factor is known priorhand.
1.4 / 5 (5) Jun 16, 2014
You little corporate sluts need to pull your heads out of your butts!

Just because reasonable people would like to question how safe GMOs are that doesn't mean it's "Science goes against Religion". Shame on you with your specious screeds.

There is such a thing as genetic information being swapped between organism, as Jantoo does expound upon.

You whore seem not to mind if the whole of our ecosystem and our bodies are used as experimental grounds for this tech with profits before people as the modus operandi.

As far as the business is concerned, we already have seen the likes of Monsanto suing small farmers for growing corn from seed that was inadvertently pollinated by their GMO. That's just wrong!

Without some ethics and overview, I won't support this technology being deployed all willy-nilly. I value my health, the health of my family, my neighbors and my ecosystem before Big Farming and Big Biotech
1 / 5 (4) Jun 16, 2014
There is no need for science to meddle with Food Crops for a long time; There are several junk plants out there; ALL Preliminary can be done on them first...It will take at least 1 Decade of Serious Work.
1 / 5 (3) Jun 16, 2014
Eating GMO Crop is different from Working on Cell Biology of Food Crop which might mess up what little that is left for the human beings to survive.
1 / 5 (3) Jun 16, 2014
Vitamin A: Taking a Pill OR Eating a Carrot should Suffice;
It is a VERY FOOLISH STEP to Mess up Banana Fruit like that!
There are Cheap Tools to Carve Carrots into thin Spirals...if it is hard for one's teeth!
5 / 5 (1) Jun 16, 2014
Is this 'nana variant resistant to the dreaded fungal blight that may yet destroy the familiar 'supermarket' mono-culture crop ?

And, please remember that carrots are NOT a ubiquitous crop.

Also, in too many parts of the world, fake pills crowd out the real stuff. That's assuming they've not degraded along an attenuated supply chain. IIRC, leaving a pallet of potted vitamin pills in the tropical sun for a few hours may cook them unto 'useless'...
The Science Man
1 / 5 (2) Jun 16, 2014
I am Man K. Man. To me the most interesting thing is the King Banana.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2014
So the West has brought and given itself the right to turn Africa
into the laboratory for testing the effects and side effects
of it's genetically modified experiment on food and
it's possible effects on mankind.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2014
So the West has brought and given itself the right to turn Africa
into the laboratory for testing the effects and side effects
of it's genetically modified experiment on food and
it's possible effects on mankind.

Why The IDIOTS do not Eat Their Own Garbage?
1 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2014
These Religionwallas Are SinSuckers & BananaSuckers!
No Scruples Whatsoever.
I am reminded of Infecting Guatemalans with Syphilis & Then leaving them Untreated!
1 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2014
So the West has brought and given itself the right to turn Africa
into the laboratory for testing the effects and side effects
of it's genetically modified experiment on food and
it's possible effects on mankind.

What will be the End Result? Have you heard of Hyper-Vitaminosis with Vitamin A & Skin Color Turning Yellow? And So many related Health Disorders because of this U.S devised B.S!
1 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2014
It's all just about systematical tendency of biotech companies to penetrate market and make money from fabricated needs. If they feel, that the African children suffer with need of vitamine A instead of plain malnutrition, why not to simply buy it for them? Actually it's just the transparent attempt, how to make them dependent on western patented technologies and as such even poorer. I just don't like it, even if the GMO would be positively harmless: it's unethical behavior.
5 / 5 (1) Jun 18, 2014

Yep, men like this have NO scruples, hate the third world, and try to take advantage of everyone they see...ESPECIALLY if they live in Africa or have brown skin...

Sorry for the sarcasm, I don't usually like to communicate that way. However, given how completely off the rails the comments on this thread are, and given how unbalanced the individuals doing the commenting are I'd say a little bite in the communication might be necessary to have them take a deeeeep breath, take a step back, and then drop the histrionics and communicate without the drama....maybe several deep breaths and several steps back.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.