business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

At the risk of igniting the GMO debate here all over again…

In the UK, the Telegraph has a story about how Australian researchers have developed a genetically modified banana that is "enriched with alpha and beta carotene which the body converts to vitamin A," and that will soon begin being tested to see if they can " lift vitamin A levels in humans." The Telegraph writes that "the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) project, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, hopes to see conclusive results by year end."

According to the story, the goal is to grow the bananas in countries like Uganda, Rwanda, parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania - places where, though bananas are a major crop, they tend to be varieties with "low levels of micro-nutrients, particularly pro-vitamin A and iron."

Project leader Professor James Dale tells the paper that "good science can make a massive difference here by enriching staple crops such as Ugandan bananas with pro-vitamin A and providing poor and subsistence-farming populations with nutritionally rewarding food."

I'm sure that someone will have reasons not to do this … and, not being a scientist, I'm hardly the ideal person to judge the project's suitability.

But on the face of it, this seems like a pretty good idea, providing both nutritional and economic benefits to an area of the world that could use them.

As I say, though, I'm sure there will be a debate … and it'll be an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: