A GMO version of bananas are being field tested in Uganda as the Inquisitr recently reported. Meanwhile, the bananas have been brought to the U.S. for a six week trial on humans which will measure how well the genetically altered bananas are able to lift vitamin A levels. Uganda’s previous laws did not allowed the commercial release of GMOs, but the new vitamin-A enriched versions of bananas is expected to help lift the GMO ban in Uganda.
The development of the GMO, vitamin-enriched version of bananas is financially backed by a grant of approximately 10 million dollars by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “While rare in the developed world, Vitamin A deficiency in developing countries causes hundreds of thousands of children to go blind each year. It also reduces the body’s ability to fight infection, which raises the fatality rates in poor countries from infectious diseases like measles,” Bill Gates wrote in Gates Notes.
Uganda’s National Biosafety Bill heightened debate in 2013. New proposals to introduce GMOs commercially and to allow GMOs to be free from ongoing research before being introduced to consumers was at the center of last year’s debate in Uganda, according to The East African. Queensland University of Technology’s Professor James Dale, who has been leading the research on the bananas, expects the Ugandan government to alter their laws to allow for the commercialization of GMOs within six years partly thanks to his new form of bananas. The previous law only allowed for GMOs in research which is done strictly in laboratories and confined to field trials.
“We are concerned because the current Bill intension is to introduce GMOs in Uganda on large scale. The Bill ignores the traditional methods of genetics and intends to contaminate our crops with foreign genes which have disastrous effects on health and environment,” Robert Tumwesigye Baganda, executive director of the Pro-biodiversity Conservationists in Uganda (PROBICOU), wrote to one of Uganda’s leading news sources.
— AsiimweFrancisXavier (@asiimwefx) March 19, 2014
Dr. Andrew Kiggundu, of the Kawanda National Agricultural Research Institute in Uganda, said that the GMOs, like the bananas, should not have negative health consequences for Ugandans. He said, “For the first time in our civilization, plant varieties will go through a rigorous approval process for safety. If the law is passed, crops will first be tested against toxicity and allergy issues. This has never been done before in our society.” GMO-skeptics in the U.S. will be watching Uganda’s allergy and toxicity test results, because they are tests that the public have been demanding since GMOs became wide-spread in the American diet. Kiggundu asserted, “If any GMO crop can pass these tests then be sure that it is safe. It is better to trust food that goes through strict testing regulations than one that is not tested.”
— Kenneth Chong (@maughams) June 17, 2014
The exact method of genetic altering is unclear based on current press releases and reports. Inquisitr will report any follow-up information regarding the method of genetic engineering used to create the GMOs that are being field tested in Uganda as the information about the bananas becomes available.
[Photo via Gates Notes]