Bill Gates joins the support for biotech bananas

(NC) -- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently committed $10 million to help produce vitamin A enriched bananas in sub-Saharan Africa. The money will back a project at the Queensland University of Technology headed by professor James Dale.

“Bill and Melinda Gates have been strong advocates of biotechnology in the effort to address world hunger,” said Lorne Hepworth, president of CropLife Canada, an agricultural trade association. “They recognize that with science, we can ensure millions of people in developing countries have access to adequate nutrition. This project is another step in opening the world to the significant advances genetically modified foods can play in a serious global issue.”

The research project addresses the huge iron and vitamin A deficiencies found in Ugandan people. Lack of these nutrients can cause malnutrition and stunt brain development, particularly in children. By breeding bananas that contain more of these nutrients, professor Dale is hoping to provide significant long-term health benefits to the people, who rely on bananas as a staple in their diets.

According to Bill Gates, there is no added cost involved in growing the genetically modified bananas, so this could be a simple way to address a serious health issue, not only in Uganda, but in other tropic and sub-tropic countries. In fact, the Gates Foundation has recently taken on bananas as one of its core crops, citing its values as the eighth most important crop in the world.

Hepworth says biotechnology companies in Canada are excited that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation continues to back projects designed to address world hunger.

“We know that carefully regulated plant science can make a very real difference in the lives of people in developing countries,” he said. “It is up to those of us in first world countries, with the resources and technology, to lead the global fight to eradicate hunger.”


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