Special bananas: Africa’s answer to Golden Rice?

Oluwabusayo Sotunde (writing as Busayo in Ventures Africa) tells us about a ‘special banana’ (Musa × paradisiaca) rich in alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. After eating those carotenes, the body converts them to Vitamin A. So they’re ‘provitamins’.

This new genetically modified (GM, genetically engineered) crop doesn’t seem to have an offical name yet, so I’ll nickname it Provit Banana. It confuses me a bit! Banana classification is quite complicated. I don’t yet know whether Provit Banana is a savoury plantain, familiar to many people as a staple food, or a dessert variety.

But as Busayo points out, the point of this GM is to improve children’s nutrition. In that sense, perhaps Provit Banana will become Africa’s answer to Golden Rice. Just now Provit Banana (developed in Australia) is about to start human trials in the United States.

[Edit] Some people think this GM banana is a very bad idea. I’m grateful to eqfe for showing me this article, in a comment on my post here. It does strike me that the Provit Banana project funding is largely from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is known to be strongly pro-GM, seeking a new Green Revolution in Africa, and not very supportive of biodiversity or food sovereignty.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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6 Responses to Special bananas: Africa’s answer to Golden Rice?

  1. EqFe says:

    There has been an ongoing campaign against this. from many angles, here’s one which basically believes that the problem with bananas in general is the fact that they are clones, and this lack of biodiversity is a real problem. (http://sustainablepulse.com/2013/05/02/campaign-launched-to-stop-bill-gates-funded-gmo-bananas/#.U6GW6Psg_IU) There are also complaints that the new banana is being test in the US where it is not needed.

    • argylesock says:

      Thank you for this. I did wonder, when I saw who’s funding the banana project. Now I’ve added your link to my post.

      This is the kind of thing that led me to ask whether this banana is Africa’s answer to Golden Rice. When I learn more, I’ll blog about whether it shares with Golden Rice the unreasononable needs for storage at -70 degC, and eating as part of high-fat meals. Poor people aren’t likely to have freezers like that or diets like that.

  2. EqFe says:

    I read that in a book called “The Appetites of man” which was about comparative diets featuring China, Japan, Hunza, US, Uganda and one or two more.

  3. Pingback: Biofortified GM bananas | Science on the Land

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