The decade-long research, published in the Plant Biotechnology Journal, had resulted in the identification and selection of banana genes that could be used to enhance pro-vitamin A in the fruit through the genetic modification process.
“What we’ve done is take a gene from a banana that originated in Papua New Guinea and is naturally very high in pro-vitamin A but has small bunches, and inserted it into a Cavendish banana,” said Professor James Dale, who led the research team.
Professor Dale said it had been estimated that 650,000 to 700,000 children worldwide die from pro-vitamin A deficiency each year, with a further several hundred thousand going blind. He describes the development of the bio-fortified banana as a significant humanitarian project to overcome the vitamin deficiency.
The researchers were able to develop a banana with high levels of pro-vitamin A, which gave it a golden-orange rather than cream-coloured flesh. With this enriched fruit, a more nutritional diet can be delivered to some of the poorest subsistence communities in Africa.
The results of this research could also prove beneficial to developing countries in Asia with populations that are deficient in pro-vitamin A.