Go Bananas! Franken-Bananas May Help Prevent Blindness

Who’s afraid of the big, bad…banana? Apparently plenty of people. They’re concerned that “franken-bananas,” or those that have undergone gene manipulation may do more harm than good.


Shape.com reported that scientists have unlocked a way to modify bananas so that they contain much more Vitamin A. Bananas with this modification could help many malnourished people, and may even prevent some from going blind due to vitamin A deficiency.

Technically, these bananas wouldn’t fall under the genetically modified organism (GMO) category, but rather the genetically engineered organism one. This is because no foreign genomes were introduced into the banana DNA. The existing DNA was changed enough to create a super banana.

Why Is Everyone Scared of Bananas?

While plenty of people have their worries about food that’s been genetically altered, the FDA has said that genetically engineered foods are safe to eat. They may also play a key role in preventing starvation and other health problems. Many of these problems stem from a vitamin deficiency, such as blindness caused by insufficient levels of vitamin A.

Lance Batchelor, Ph.D., who is a molecular biologist in the genetics department of the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine, told Shape that GEOs and GMOs can be helpful.

“People need to get over their fear of GMOs,” he said. “Of course the anti-GMO activists will organize against it. But their rhetoric is at odds with an overwhelming scientific consensus involving every major scientific organization in the world based on hundreds of studies.”

Not everyone will agree with Dr. Batchelor on the subject of GMOs, but most will agree that doing what we can to help fight preventable diseases is a good thing. Bananas are already full of vitamins and other good things, so it makes some amount of sense to try and up the amount of vitamins you can get from them.

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The modified bananas are set to go to trial in the United States, and it is hoped that they can be distributed to African growers by the year 2024.

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