Researchers at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have used genetic engineering to develop a golden-orange fleshed banana that is rich in pro-vitamin A. The decade-long research, recently published in Plant Biotechnology Journal, involved extensive laboratory tests at QUT as well as field trials in north Queensland, Australia.
Lead researcher, Professor James Dale, said the genetic modification process had resulted in the identification and selection of banana genes that could be used to enhance pro-vitamin A in banana fruit. Backed with close to $10 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the research ultimately aims to improve the nutritional content of bananas in Uganda, where the fruit is the major staple food in their daily diet.
“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 Dale. “Over the years, we’ve been able to develop a banana that has achieved excellent pro-vitamin A levels, hence the golden-orange rather than cream-colored flesh.”