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

Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.

World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.

"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.

"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.

The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."

Each CARE Package contained rations that had once been reserved for soldiers, but were now being redirected to civilians who had suffered as a result of the conflict. The packages cost $10 to send, and they were guaranteed to arrive at their destination within four months.

Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, got involved, and on May 11, 1946, the first 15,000 packages were sent to Le Havre in France, a port badly battered during the war.

Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.

Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.

The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.

But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.

Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.

Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.

From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.

Motherhood is a journey unlike any other, and one that is nearly impossible to prepare for. No matter how many parenting books you read, how many people you talk to, how many articles you peruse before having kids, your children will emerge as completely unique creatures who impact your world in ways you could never have anticipated.

Those of us who have been parenting for a while have some wisdom to share from experience. Not that older moms know everything, of course, but hindsight can offer some perspective that's hard to find when you're in the thick of early motherhood.

Upworthy asked our readers who are moms what they wish they could tell their younger selves about motherhood, and the responses were both honest and wholesome. Here's what they said:

Lighten up. Don't sweat the small stuff.

One of the most common responses was to stop worrying about the little things so much, try to be present with your kids, and enjoy the time you have with them:

"Relax and enjoy them. If your house is a mess, so be it. Stay in the moment as they are temporary..more so than you think, sometimes. We lost our beautiful boy to cancer 15+yrs ago. I loved him more than life itself..💔 "- Janet

"Don't worry about the dishes, laundry and other chores. Read the kids another book. Go outside and make a mud pie. Throw the baseball around a little longer. Color another picture. Take more pictures and make sure you are in the pictures too! My babies are 19 and 17 and I would give anything to relive an ordinary Saturday from 15 years ago." - Emma H.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

Keep Reading Show less