Between 650,000 and 700,000 children die each year from vitamin A deficiency. Therefore, researchers in Australia have developed genes that modify common bananas to become rich in vitamin A.

Professor James Dale has led a team of scientists who have modified bananas to make them rich in pro-vitamin A. This humanitarian project will improve the nutrition of people in Uganda. Credit: Patria Janides, Queensland University of Technology

Vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness but also weaken the immune system. This causes hundreds of thousands of children to die every year due to vitamin A deficiency. Researchers in Australia have studied whether a banana rich in vitamin A could be developed.

Now after ten years, the scientists argue that they have produced the best genes to produce such a banana. The genes will be inserted into banana plants in Uganda, thus producing so-called ‘golden bananas’.

The research is backed with $10 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The project ultimately aims to improve the nutritional content of bananas in Uganda, where the fruit is the major staple food in their daily diet.

But despite the fact that the bananas in the experimental crops should be ready to be harvested by 2021, it is currently impossible to research the effectiveness of the banana on health. In addition, researchers argue that vitamin A deficiency is an indicator of another major problem, namely poverty.

Genetically modified crops are and remain controversial and some argue that there are simpler and less controversial solutions to vitamin A deficiency in low-income countries.


Paul et al., “Golden bananas in the field: elevated fruit pro-vitamin A from the expression of a single banana transgene“, Plant Biotechnology Journal, doi: 10.1111/pbi.12650