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October 31st, 2018 / Alliance for Science, US

B4FA Fellow Lominda Afedraru reports:

Ugandan scientists are eying a 2021 release date for genetically modified bananas fortified with vitamin A, provided the nation passes its biosafety law.

In 2005, Ugandan scientists began using the tools of biotechnology to breed bananas fortified with vitamin A. Their goal was to help rural families suffering from a deficiency of the nutrient, which is essential for proper growth, maintenance of the immune system and good vision.

To date, the 13-year research effort has shown promising results, with the genetically modified (GM) banana variety expressing 100 percent vitamin A content. The fortified variety is a more golden color than ordinary bananas.

Dr. Jerome Kubiruba, head of the banana program at the National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NaRL) in Kawanda, said his team is poised to release the variety by 2021.

“The product is ready,” he said. “We have managed to incorporate vitamin A as we wanted. If given the opportunity to consume it even today, I will be more than willing to do so because the product we have now is good for consumption. Secondly, we have followed the standard research procedure during the breeding process. But there are modalities to secure permission from the responsible committee at Uganda National Council of Science and Technology (UNCST) and other international bodies for this to happen.” Read more