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
Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

Keep Reading Show less

Schools often have to walk a fine line when it comes to parental complaints. Diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and preferences for what kids see and hear will always mean that schools can't please everyone all the time, so educators have to discern what's best for the whole, broad spectrum of kids in their care.

Sometimes, what's best is hard to discern. Sometimes it's absolutely not.

Such was the case this week when a parent at a St. Louis elementary school complained in a Facebook group about a book that was read to her 7-year-old. The parent wrote:

"Anyone else check out the read a loud book on Canvas for 2nd grade today? Ron's Big Mission was the book that was read out loud to my 7 year old. I caught this after she watched it bc I was working with my 3rd grader. I have called my daughters school. Parents, we have to preview what we are letting the kids see on there."

Keep Reading Show less
True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less

With many schools going virtual, many daycare facilities being closed or limited, and millions of parents working from home during the pandemic, the balance working moms have always struggled to achieve has become even more challenging in 2020. Though there are more women in the workforce than ever, women still take on the lion's share of household and childcare duties. Moms also tend to bear the mental load of keeping track of all the little details that keep family life running smoothly, from noticing when kids are outgrowing their clothing to keeping track of doctor and dentist appointments to organizing kids' extracurricular activities.

It's a lot. And it's a lot more now that we're also dealing with the daily existential dread of a global pandemic, social unrest, political upheaval, and increasingly intense natural disasters.

That's why scientist Gretchen Goldman's refreshingly honest photo showing where and how she conducted a CNN interview is resonating with so many.

Keep Reading Show less
via DCist / Twitter

The 2020 general election will be unlike any in U.S. history due to a large number of people voting before election day, November 3.

The COVID-19 pandemic has many voting early, either in-person or by mail, so they can avoid large crowds of people. While others are mailing in their ballots early due to concerns over President Trump's attempts to stifle voter turnout by disrupting the United States Postal Service.

Four states officially started early in-person voting on Friday and if the number of people who've already cast a ballot in Virginia is any indication of a nationwide trend, voter turnout is going to be massive this year.

Keep Reading Show less