Kawanda Researchers Develop Vitamin A-Enriched Banana

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In short
Vitamin A deficiency, which can cause blindness, stunting and even death, is a devastating problem in the county. About 40 percent of children under age 5 are vitamin-A deficient, according to a 2011 health survey.

Scientists at the National Agricultural Research Laboratories-Kawanda have developed a new Vitamin-A-enriched Banana variety to add macronutrients to the Ugandan staple. The development is based on the fact that the cooking bananas that many Ugandan have consumed over the years lacked some of the needed macronutrients - such as vitamin A and iron.

Dr Jerome Kubiriba, the head of the National Banana Research Program at National Agricultural Research Organization-NARO says years of research into the possibility of enhancing the banana with Vitamin A nutrients are paying off.

The Vitamin A enriched bananas have been under confined field trials for the last two and a half years with convincing results being registered.

For a consumer who has eaten matooke for decades, it may sound awkward why one would need to have it enhanced with Vitamin A. but for Dr. Kubiriba and other scientists, Vitamin deficiency among  is one problem to be addressed among majority of Ugandans.
 
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Vitamin A deficiency, which can cause blindness, stunting and even death, is a devastating problem in the county. About 40 percent of children under age 5 are vitamin-A deficient, according to a 2011 health survey.
 
It was expected that the Vitamin A-enriched banana would be commercialized by 2020 but Dr. Kubiriba says the release could in late 2021 because of the rigorous procedure required.
 
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Kubiriba says they are the stage where there need to conduct more molecular analysis and other details regarding bio safety and safety regulation. Once the safety issues are addressed, Kubiriba says they will move to the multi-locational trials with the target of releasing the product by 2021.
 
Researchers hope to increase the amount of Vitamin A in bananas by a minimum of 20 micrograms for each gram of dry weight. With that, they think the banana will able to improve the consumer's health.

Though Dr. Kubiriba says they are still on course, there is yet a big road block ahead. Their research could stall until Parliament passes the National Biotechnology and Biosafety bill 2012.

The Bill which is now before Parliament provides for the regulation of the development of Genetically Modified Organisms to ensure safety to consumers as well as the environment. The law is also needed to regulate importation and transportation of Genetically Modified Organisms.