These stunning golden bananas may make you feel differently about GMOs.

Imagine you're eating a banana.

Photo from Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

As you start to strip away the yellow peel, you notice that the inside seems different. Instead of the banana's flesh being a pale cream color, it's a rich golden-orange.


Would you eat that?

Because that's what scientists from Queensland University of Technology in Australia have created using genetic modification. And these golden bananas aren't just for show. They could save hundreds of thousands of kids a year from going blind, or even dying.

In the United States, bananas are smoothie ingredients and breakfast toppings. But in some parts of the world, they're as essential as bread.

Photo by Jean-Yves Paul/Flickr.

Bananas are one of the world's staple crops. In West Africa, they're as important to the local diet as rice is to East Asia or potatoes were to the Irish. In parts of Uganda, the typical diet includes more than two pounds of bananas a day.

But no single food has all the vitamins and minerals a person needs to live, and without a varied diet, you can get sick. For bananas and the people who depend on them, it's vitamin A that's the problem — there isn't enough in the fruit.

Not getting enough vitamin A is a big deal, especially for children. It can weaken the immune system and stunt growth, and it's the leading cause of preventable childhood blindness in the world. Of the preschool-age children who die every year in Africa, about 6% die of not getting enough vitamin A.

The obvious answer would be to eat a more varied diet, but fresh fruits and meat can be costly, and many low-income farmers don't have the money.

But now scientists might have an easy way to add that oh-so-crucial vitamin into any banana they please.

Not all bananas lack vitamin A, but the ones they eat in Uganda do. You could try to crossbreed them with a vitamin-rich variety, but unfortunately, that wouldn't work. Domesticated bananas are sterile.

So scientists used genetic modification. Using genes from a vitamin-A-rich (but hard-to-grow) strain called Fe'i, QUT professor James Dale and his team loaded commercially viable banana seedlings with beta-carotene, a source of vitamin A.

Photo by Jean-Yves Paul/Flickr.

It took some experimenting, but they were able to up the beta-carotene content in the fruit by more than 30 times — hopefully, enough to stave off vitamin A deficiency.

As an interesting side effect, the banana's flesh ended up turning a rich, golden yellow.

Beta-carotene isn't just a source of vitamin A. It's also a naturally occurring bright orange pigment. (It's responsible for giving carrots their color.)

As for taste, Dale says it was unaffected.

Photo by Jean-Yves Paul/Flickr.

This particular project was just a proof of concept, but Dale and his colleagues have now given the technology to local Ugandan scientists, who'll start experimenting with Ugandan banana plants.

"They will be the leaders," Dale says.

Other attempts to use genetic modification to fortify foods have been met with skepticism and resistance. In 2013, a field of vitamin-A-enriched "golden rice" was vandalized and destroyed by protesters in the Philippines. But Dale says their project is different from commercial genetic modification. They're not patenting any of the technology, and since domesticated bananas are sterile, there shouldn't be any worry about cross-pollination.

This could be an easy, self-sustaining way to save hundreds of thousands of kids a year.

The hope is to start sharing the bananas with Ugandan farmers soon. Once they're out there, the farmers will be free — and encouraged — to give saplings to their friends and neighbors, as well.

People could be planting, eating, and sharing the golden bananas as soon as 2021.

Funding for professor Dale's project was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.K. Department for International Development.

True

A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.
via Brittany Kinley / Facebook

Brittany Kinley, a mother from Mansfield, Texas, had a hilarious mom fail her and she's chalking it up to being just another crazy thing that happened in 2020.

When Kinley filled out the order form for her son Mason's kindergarten class pictures, there was an option to have his name engraved into the photos. But Kinley wasn't interested in having her son's name on the photos so she wrote "I DON'T WANT THIS" on the box.

Well, it appears as though she should have left the box blank because the computer or incredibly literal human that designed the photographs wrote "I DON'T WANT THIS" where mason's name should be.

Keep Reading Show less
True

A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.
Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash

Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.

Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.

Keep Reading Show less
via UDOT / Facebook

In December 2018, The Utah Department of Transportation opened the largest wildlife overpass in the state, spanning 320 by 50 feet across all six lanes of Interstate 80.

Its construction was intended to make traveling through the I-80 corridor in Summit County safer for motorists and the local wildlife.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that there were over 100 animal incidents on the interstate since 2016, giving the stretch of highway the unfortunate nickname of "Slaughter Row."

Keep Reading Show less