uganda health
These vitamin-fortified bananas might get you thinking differently about GMOs
More than 100,000 children around the world die every year from a lack of vitamin A.
By Nathanael Johnson

It’s not the first time there has been controversy over the use of genetic engineering to solve vitamin A deficiency. Since 1982, researchers have been trying to genetically engineer carotenes into rice. In 2000, the cover of Time declared that “golden rice,” as it was named, could “save a million kids a year.” But that was premature: The successful development of golden rice has been thwarted by both technical challenges and protesters.

This is a lot bigger than a squabble between student protesters and scientists. More than 100,000 children around the world still die every year from a lack of vitamin A. The pro-GMO and anti-GMO contingents have accused each other of taking advantage of these vulnerable people to advance their own causes. There’s no doubt that biotechnology boosters have used Golden Rice as a public relations tool, and there’s also no doubt that it could be a legitimate solution that has been delayed by protests.

Now we’re seeing the beginnings of the same debate as researchers from Iowa State, Uganda, and Australia team up to reengineer the staple food of Uganda, the cooking banana. Clearly, this strategy can be both difficult and controversial, so why do people keep trying to genetically engineer their way out of malnutrition?

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