Just as the rabid anti-GMO proponents don’t like it if people whose main staple is rice (mostly the below poverty population) get enough vitamins to prevents major illnesses, they now have another victim in their sights: the banana eaters!
The GMO Banana
I wrote about the GMO banana controversy here. Bananas are a staple crop in parts of the world, including East Africa where it can represent up to 70% of calories consumed. Vitamin A deficiency is also common in this region. According to National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) acting director Dr Andrew Kiggundu, 52% of children under five in Uganda suffer from Vitamin A deficiency, while iron deficiency accounts for 40% of deaths in this age group.
The idea is to engineer a banana cultivar native to the region so that it produces more beta carotene and iron. The cultivar is already adapted to the region, and the locals are already heavily growing and relying upon this staple crop.
Further, the GMO is being developed by the Ugandan government, NARO, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This is primarily a humanitarian project created by the local government and farmers.
In other words – the project is a perfect nightmare for the anti-GMO crowd. There is no corporate greed, no agricultural colonialism, no patents, no pesticides, and no environmental issues (no potential for contamination or cross breeding). Further, not only are there no health risks, this GMO plant is designed to address a critical health issue in the region.
In this way the GMO banana is similar to golden rice, another attempt to use GM technology to address vitamin A deficiency by fortifying a staple crop.