Can “Super Bananas” Save Africa?

Genetically engineered fruit fights malnutrition


A project by the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, hopes to produce “super bananas” as a means to combat malnutrition in impoverished African nations.

As Time reports, several banana varieties will be enriched with alpha- and beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. The project is seeking to have several crops growing in Uganda by 2020. A first crop of genetically engineered bananas has been sent to the United States, where six weeks of human testing is expected to begin shortly.

If successful, the project could be instrumental in improving health conditions, especially for children, in places such as Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where vitamin A deficiency is a rampant problem.

Project leader Professor James Dale was quoted in the Telegraph as saying, “The consequences of vitamin A deficiency are dire, with 650,000 to 700,000 children worldwide dying … each year and at least another 300,000 going blind.”