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Biotech Medicine Science

"Super Bananas" May Save Millions of Lives In Africa 396

schwit1 (797399) writes "A super-enriched genetically engineered banana will soon go through its first human trial, which will test its effect on vitamin A levels, Australian researchers said Monday. The project plans to have the special banana varieties — enriched with alpha and beta carotene which the body converts to vitamin A — growing in Uganda by 2020. The bananas are now being sent to the United States, and it is expected that the six-week trial measuring how well they lift vitamin A levels in humans will begin soon."
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"Super Bananas" May Save Millions of Lives In Africa

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  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:27AM (#47245633)

    GENETICALLY ENGINEERED???? That's the boogeyman under the bed!! We must grow organic and all be vegans. If the poor Africans are starving, they just need to go to their local Whole Foods and buy some food.

  • A new Monoculture? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:27AM (#47245637)

    Isn't the banana population under serious threat because of monoculture? I remember the current banana cultivar - the Cavendish - is under threat because of lack of disease resistance because of monoculture. The previous well used cultivar, the Gros Michel, was replaced because it lost to a disease threat - also due to monoculture. The article didn't mention anything about plant disease resistance.

  • Racists (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:28AM (#47245645)

    In all progressive countries, giving ethnic Africans banana is considered to be act of hostile racism.

    P.S. No, I don't think so, but I guess that will be the reason of why activists will be murdered and, perhaps, eaten.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:31AM (#47245683)

    GMO Food is to Liberals as Global Warming is to Conservatives.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:42AM (#47245787) Homepage Journal

    GMO Food is to Liberals as Global Warming is to Conservatives.

    Really? What's the positive argument for global warming?

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:46AM (#47245831) Journal

    Or a really rich charity. Never underestimate the greed of "non-profits."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:51AM (#47245883)

    TELL ME ABOUT IT. There are about 400 varieties of bananas in India and those Pasty Limeys picked only one, the Cavendish, to grow everywhere else around the world. No wonder we're talking about the whole crop being very prone to one disease wiping all global stock of bananas.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:52AM (#47245893)

    To explain further. We like to think our favorite political group is more knowledgeable in science then your proponents are, however that isn't the case, both will accept and reject science based on how it goes for or against their political stance.

    In General Terms Liberals Look for Problems and try to propose solutions. So if there is anything stated as good they will dig into it to find faults and try to fix them. Now this could be a good thing, as fixing problems tends to make things better... However often the case is the problems have already been minimized, and the benefit of the whole is a worthwhile trade-off to the found problem, and trying to fix the problem will create new costlier problems.

    In General Terms Conservatives tend to look for successes, and try to prevent changes to what already works. This process allows for concepts and ideas to mature and allow them to grow to their potential. But this could mean that there could be large problems that really need to be fixed, but are against trying to fix it. Allowing for the problems to exceed the values.

    Now science when done properly isn't politically motivated it looks at the data, proposes a model for it, this model tests it. And the easiest model that matches the data tends to be the widely accepted one. This means for Liberals that there are going to be things while there is a problem is so minor compared to the overall value that it isn't worth fixing. To Conservatives means there are problems so large that something needs to be done to be fixed.

  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:59AM (#47245965) Homepage Journal

    How many liberals faking scientific literacy making that argument do you see on slashdot? Global warming denialism is more endemic to American conservatives than any of the commonly cited stereotypes about liberals.

    That's not to say we deny the existence or alignment of the idiots, but we do know they're idiots.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @11:01AM (#47245983) Homepage

    Poor people are fact because they CANT eat properly. I suggest you look at the price of real unprocessed meat and veggies as well as hole grain breads.

    Poor people buy the $1.25 garbage white bread instead of the $3.00 a loaf whole grain.
    They buy Ramen, that is utter crap for nutrition.
    They buy prepackaged garbage because it's cheaper, a LOT cheaper.
    They buy the lowest grade of meat, typically hamburger in a tube that is 50% fat, hooves and tripe.

    Veggies are expensive, $1.00 iceberg lettuce that is complete crap instead of the $4.00 Romaine lettuce.

    DOUBLE the poor persons food budget and they can start to eat better. Also put a big ass tax on Fast food places that sell utter crap like McDonalds and Taco Bell. They prey on the poor with their $1.00 menu.

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @11:03AM (#47246013) Journal

    Also put a big ass tax on Fast food places that sell utter crap like McDonalds and Taco Bell. They prey on the poor with their $1.00 menu.

    *eye roll*

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Monday June 16, 2014 @11:07AM (#47246053) Homepage Journal

    More alarmist BS about GMOs well done. Please, continue to harm society with your ignorance~

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @11:16AM (#47246133) Journal

    Hamburger meat: $3.72 / pound
    Bananas: 59Â / pound
    Apples: $1.30 / pound
    Romaine lettuce: $2.72 / pound
    Ice cream: $5

    People who go for instant gratification cut school, walk out on the job when they get mad, and eat Oreos. People who think though the long-term effects of their decisions work their way through college, bite their tongue and discuss problems when calm, eat fruits and vegetables, and exercise - even though they don't WANT to do those things I.the moment, they think long term.

    Short-term thinking results in a person being poor and unhealthy. Long term thinking tends to lead to financial success and a healthy lifestyle. I have done, and still do, some of both. I worked late last night, and I'm headed in to my high-paying job, where I'll work hard at serving the needs of the organization. First, I'm going to finish smoking this cigarette. I know each of those choices will probably effect me five years from now.

  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @11:21AM (#47246199)

    The majority of Starvation and poverty happen in areas where adults can't report the problem. Immigrant families and those with warrants. They'd rather starve than get sent to jail, so they starve. It happens far more often than you think it does because it goes almost totally unreported.

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @11:26AM (#47246271) Journal

    I'm not a big fan of the Tea Party, though it's interesting that you would attribute elitism to them rather than the person that suggests imposing nanny state taxes on fast food.

  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @11:30AM (#47246313)

    Poor people are fact because they CANT eat properly.

    Hogwash. Sure, you can cherry pick healthy items that are expensive, but there are also plenty of healthy foods that are cheap: carrots, oatmeal, peanut butter, eggs, etc. You don't need endive and romaine lettuce to be healthy. "Society" is not forcing people to consume soda and french fries. Soda is cheaper than fruit juice, but tap water is even cheaper. There are plenty of food options that are both healthy and affordable.

  • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @11:31AM (#47246323) Journal

    Poor people are fat because they dont eat properly.

    Actually, it's because they don't have much choice in what to eat...

    Consider that you only have $10 to feed your family, and just came off-shift at your minimum-wage job.

    You can either buy:
    - a McMeal on the way home from work (they have some sort of deal going now where you can get 4 burgers, some fries, and 4 soft drinks for $9.99)
    - a couple of Pepperoni Little Caesars' pizzas, again on the way home from work
    - burn $5 or so in gas to get proper food at the nearest decent grocery store 10 miles away, and spend an extra $8 doing that
    - spend $15 at inflated prices for nutritious food (though it's slightly old) at the nearest bodega/grocer/phone-card/payday-loan store,
    - buy two heads of organic free-range vegan-gods-approved broccoli for $8 at the nearest Whole Payche... err, "Foods" roughly 15 miles away (burning $5-6 in gas)
    - Wait until Thursday, where you can drive 20 miles to the Farmers' Market in the ritzy part of town and spend $25 for that same family meal.

    Thing is, most poor neighborhoods usually don't have decent grocery stores. Why? Because most grocers don't like losing shedloads of money due to food-stamp/EBT fraud, shoplifting, robberies, etc. This means what groceries do make it there are either non-fresh, at highly inflated prices (to offset the aforementioned losses), preserved-all-to-hell in cans or boxes, or at a very limited selection. Or, you can save on cooking and grab some fast food, like most folks do, and as a bonus the kids don't bitch and moan as much about eating it.

    It's a set-up for obesity.

  • by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @11:37AM (#47246373)

    I'd like to hear your practical alternative then. Plant breeding and genetic engineering are not easy, and the deregulation process for GMO crops can cost millions of dollars. If you're volunteering to foot the bill, I'm sure we can do away with plant patents. In the meantime, at the end of this year Monsanto's first GE soybean patent expires, which is how I thought patents were supposed to work (as in, develop something, recoup R&D costs and make profit, invention falls to the public). Copyright my be fucked to high heaven, but this is looking like it works to me, so perhaps you could elucidate the flaw you perceive here.

    Also, even non-GMO crops can be patented. Plant breeders and genetic engineers, surprisingly, don't like to work for free. Various stonefruit hybrids (pluots, nectaplums, and plumcots) are patented because they took decades of hard work to develop. The Honeycrisp apple, one of the most popular apples, recently went off patent. The royalties from it went to support the breeding program which later produced my favorite apple variety, the SnowSweet apple (the world might not have that apple without patents). There are patented pineapples (like the Mele Kalima variety, which is one of the most amazing fruits I've ever had) and pawpaws (like the Shenandoah variety) developed by very small operations simply to protect the developer's work. A lot of the ornamental and floriculture industry uses plant patents. So tell me, if if those of us in plant improvement cannot patent our work, what do you propose as a fair system for all?

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @11:53AM (#47246505)
    Seven minutes, and we've gone from "Hey, miraculous biomedical development possible" to "Fuck hippies."

    I mean, have hippies even started protesting this? I realize that straw man arguments about "Africans should just go to whole foods" is sometimes all one can contribute, and sometimes mods don't want to read more than two posts down before dumping their points, but fucking hell, come on slashdot.

    And it IS a fucking strawman argument. We all know (or should know) that no bit of technology is completely benign. By focusing on the most idiotic of criticisms, that might make us feel smart and also make us feel better about the technology, but we're drowning out actual concerns. Look at golden rice which did the beta carotene thing first []. Yes yes, greenpeace blah blah blah, ignore that little section. There are concerns about whether it will affect the fertility of the soil. Perhaps that's not a concern with bananas, I don't know, maybe some agriculturally-leaning slashdotter could pipe in after the obligatory "fuck GMO protesting hippies."

    Loss of biodiversity, and establishing an entrenched monoculture of food is a bigger concern with GMO. Bananas were decimated by disease before [chttp]. It would really suck if everyone was planting this one strain of super bananas, and they became a necessary staple for vitamin A in parts of the world and we consider the problem solved and don't bother trying to improve nutrition in other ways. Then the Panama disease came and killed them all in the way it has done before, and suddenly we're left with a sudden serious shortage of vitamin A foods. If you're wondering, that causes blindness, impaired immune function, cancer, and birth defects. []

    See? It's entirely possible for people to have more concerns than "OMG, scary frankenfoods!" I'm not a hippie. I don't have a solution though. I mean, do they have whole foods there? Because if they did have a whole foods, that would probably be a better solution than potentially creating this []. (kidding)

    Bottom line, ignore the lunatic fringes in any controversey. It's fun to point and laugh at idiots, but you'll usually ignore the more reasonable people who might be on that side of the argument, those reasonable people might be right, in which case, you'd take second place in the idiot contest.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16, 2014 @11:54AM (#47246517)

    (Posting as AC from work)

    You are confusing first world poverty with third world poverty.

    For third world people, "If you are poor, go to McDonalds" is akin to "Let them eat cake" [] - which is to say it doesn't reflect the reality of the poor in third world countries. In many of those countries, fast food such as McDonalds and bread are luxury items and a dollar's worth will stretch a lot further when spent at the market.

    Look at the TV imagery showing poor African families - ever see any fat people in there? I didn't think so. It's because their poverty is beyond "not being able to eat right". It's at a point of "not being able to eat (enough)".

    Besides, McDonalds is not actually that cheap. If you cook, you can do a whole lot better than McDonalds [] on a tiny budget.

  • by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @11:57AM (#47246553)

    Food like many things tends to follow the "2 out of 3" rule:

    Healthy, Tastes Good, Cheap

    You can pick two. For the poor the "Cheap" option is already mandated, so essentially it comes down to Healthy or Tastes Good. Unfortunately most tend to go with better tasting food over the healthier food.

  • by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:17PM (#47246733)

    I mean, have hippies even started protesting this?

    Not yet, far as I know, but since every GMO that has ever made it close to commercialization has been protested, I don't see why this should be any different.

    And it IS a fucking strawman argument.

    It would be if there were not first world activists who actually think that the poorest people on earth should just go buy some healthier foods. There is a reason why people who have made it their life's work to combat starvation and malnutrition are taking the route of Golden Rice and other biofortified crops (and it must also be said that the non-GMO biofortified crops escape all the controversy, almost as if the arguments against the GMO ones have nothing to do with their actual properties and everything to do with an irrational bias against their origin)

    There are concerns about whether it will affect the fertility of the soil.

    No, there aren't. Genetic engineering is not a black box. I don't see how beta carotene production is going to impact the soil. Sounds like a bullshit claim some clueless anti-GMO activist pulled out the usual place. I highly doubt this rice will be any different than any other rice, on average, in terms of soil impact.

    ignore the lunatic fringes in any controversey

    If we do that then there is no controversy. This is like creationism, or vaccine rejection. You can reject certain phylogeny, or take issue with particular vaccines, and you can make valid criticisms about certain aspects of some GMOs, but the movements as a whole are without merit.

  • by NatasRevol ( 731260 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:35PM (#47246921) Journal

    Perhaps if you'd read TFA, you'd see this:

    "The consequences of vitamin A deficiency are dire with 650,000-700,000 children world-wide dying ... each year and at least another 300,000 going blind," he said.

    I don't think they have to worry about toxic levels. Esp since toxic levels are 1500IU *per kilo*. So, somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 bananas per meal, 3x per day. And then they might get to toxic levels.

  • by Eravnrekaree ( 467752 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @01:09PM (#47247211)

    The real story here is 1) this will not reduce malnutrition problems in the third world 2) its an effort to get third world populations hooked on GMOs controlled by large corporations, which will actually increase suffering as it will lead to more expensive food with all of the licensing fees. It wont solve malnutrition because if it were the need for another plant we could simply plant papayas to provide the vitamin A. The solution may as well be these people going back to their more traditional diet, we forget that in the past these people were not malnourished and it is the introduction of the corporate controlled food supply that has already occured that created these problems by altering the traditional diet. What is very likely is that corporate controlled food sources such as vegetable oil replaced locally produced palm oil which may have had the vitamin A.

    On to the issue of the safety of the GMOs. Don't you people realize that "opposition to GMOs is anti-science " is pure marketing hogwash being given to you by powerful multinational corporations? The fact is the concerns of the anti-GMO people are based in valid scientific concerns over the safety of GMOs and its long term impact on the biosphere. Is it really that hard for you people to believe that multinationals care only about their own profits and really dont care about the health of people?

    The fact is that GMOs pose a very serious danger to the health of the biosphere. Several books have been written on the subject which detail the dangers which are well documented, such as Jeffrey Smiths. The fact is rat studies have shown that GMOs cause kidney and liver damage to name a few. Its only a matter fo time before GMOs are shown to cause cancer. do you people really think that the same corporations that have given us an epidemic of obesity due to heavily manipulated wheat products and overall the trash in the food supply will tell you that GMOs are even worse?

  • by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @01:50PM (#47247543) Homepage Journal

    I'm sorry but that is a lame excuse. You don't need a rice cooker or slow cooker. You need a couple of sauce pans, water, heat, and the ability to read instructions.

  • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @01:55PM (#47247593)

    Where do you buy those things if there are no grocery stores within miles of your house and you don't have transportation?

    Google food deserts.

    Yeah, instead Google the myth of "food deserts." (See here [], for example.)

    Some useful quotes:

    Poor neighborhoods, Dr. Lee found, had nearly twice as many fast food restaurants and convenience stores as wealthier ones, and they had more than three times as many corner stores per square mile. But they also had nearly twice as many supermarkets and large-scale grocers per square mile.

    Dr. Sturm found no relationship between what type of food students said they ate, what they weighed, and the type of food within a mile and a half of their homes.

    And even if it were true that many grocery stores in poor neighborhoods don't have a load of high-quality fresh produce choices (the main thing always brought up about "food deserts," if they exist), even the crappy urban grocery stores I've been in will often have "family packs" of cheap frozen veggies and such, or at least large cans of vegetables and fruit. It's not the best stuff on the planet, but the idea that the only thing available is McDonald's, boxes of donuts, and bags of chips is generally more of a myth than reality.

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly