from the Little-Eric-Volunteers dept.
Every year, vitamin A deficiency inflicts between 250,000 and 500,000 helpless and malnourished young people with early-life blindness and in half of those cases, it also brings death. Now the Washington Post reports that, backed by nearly $10 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, scientists are now working to genetically engineer "super" bananas that are fortified with crucial alpha- and beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. "There is very good evidence that vitamin A deficiency leads to an impaired immune system and can even have an impact on brain development," says James Dale. "Good science can make a massive difference here by enriching staple crops such as Ugandan bananas with pro-vitamin A and providing poor and subsistence-farming populations with nutritionally rewarding food."
The Gates Foundation has a history of supporting GMO research and technology at least since 2010, when the non-profit invested in a low amount of shares in biotechnology giant Monsanto. Gates has amped up support for GMOs so that "poor countries that have the toughest time feeding their people have a process," adding that "there should be an open-mindedness, and if they can specifically prove [GMO] safety and benefits, foods should be approved, just like they are in middle-income countries." Such support has resulted in criticism and suspicion of the foundation's agenda. As for the worry that GMO seeds are increasingly consolidated in the hands of major agribusiness powers, Gates said in February 2013 after his foundation reportedly sold the approximately $23 million in Monsanto shares it owned that there are "legitimate issues, but solvable issues" with GMO technology and wider use. Gates added that one solution may be offering crops already patented but requiring no royalty dues.