In East African Highland, cooking banana is the major food. The bananas are harvested when they are still green, then chopped and steamed. Even though it is a good source of starch, there are micronutrients in it. So Scientists in Australia have decided to do something about it. They have created vitamin A rich golden banana that could be the perfect solution for this problem.
These golden-orange-fleshed bananas are rich in pro-vitamin A, which could save several lives of children who die from a deficiency vitamin A every year. According to Agriculture biotechnologist James Dale, it is estimated that 650,000 to 700,000 children world-wide die from pro-vitamin A deficiency annually, with another 300,000 losing their sight. Golden banana could substantially reduce those numbers.
The golden banana was obtained by taking genes from a species of banana from Papua New Guinea, which is high in provitamin A but is present is a small amount and inserted into a Cavendish banana, which is the high-yielding species. Provitamin A, once taken by the body, converts it into vitamin A.
Researchers from the Queensland University of Technology were funded 7.6 million dollars by the Bill Gate Foundation over the last ten years to research the banana. The latest research findings are published in Wiley’s Plant Biotechnology Journal.
In this study, the research team presented results from their proof of concept field trial in Australia, in which they had aimed to achieve a specific level of provitamin A within the fruits produced. They found they had succeeded the target with one line of bananas more than doubling it.
Over the years, they have been able to develop a banana which has achieved excellent provitamin A levels, hence the golden-orange rather than cream-colored flesh. This is a major milestone for them as the golden banana can prove to be a boon for the poorest communities in Africa. The researchers claim to have tested hundreds of different genetic variations in their lab and field trials in Queensland until they got the accurate result they wanted.
These elite genes have been sent to Uganda in test tubes where they are inserted into Ugandan bananas for field trials. The next step is to see whether the results are replicated or not.
It is hoped that farmers might be able to start growing the golden bananas a large scale by around 2021.