Bananas with higher levels of Vitamin A and Iron

Uganda is a tropical country with over 30 million inhabitants, 80% of them are living in rural areas. Bananas are a staple food for the locals and East African Highland Bananas are the main source of starch.

Unluckily, these bananas have a low vitamin A and iron content, meaning banana-based diets are low in these micro-nutrients, resulting in inadequate nutrition that manifests itself as high levels of vitamin A deficiency, iron deficiency anemia, and stunting in children which can lad to Vitamin A Deficiency.
Vitamin A Deficiency causes a number of disorders including night and total blindness, premature death and reduced immunity leading to increased risk of childhood infections and high infant mortality.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a project known as Banana21 was set up in 2005 to reduce micro-nutrient deficiencies in Uganda and nearby countries through the creation of edible bananas with superior levels of vitamin A and iron. A genetic modification approach was adopted[1].

Ever since the beginning, the Banana21 project tried to develop East African Highland Bananas with vitamin A levels that could supply 50% of the daily intake for 300 g/per person per day. According to results obtained so far, it's highly likely that the transgenic ranged developed thanks to the Banana21 project will be released by 2021. The M9 range, which is also resistant to the Black Sigatoka disease, will have a bigger impact in plain areas, while Nakitembe will be more suitable for plateau areas.

In this areas, bananas are important on both a cultural and food safety level. Combined with low-cost distribution and managed by producers, these Golden bananas could be an effective strategy to reduce problems connected to vitamin A deficiency over the next decade.

[1] Jean-Yves Paul et al: Banana21: From Gene Discovery to Deregulated Golden Bananas in Frontiers in Plant Science – 201. See here.

No comments:

Post a Comment