Riddled with chronic under-nutrition, poor people in Uganda will have access to two bio-fortified banana cultivators - matooke and sweet bananas by 2016.
Prof. Wilberforce Tushemereirwe, the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) said, “For a long time, the Ministry of Health identified the most critical nutritional micronutrients as Vitamin A and iron,"
Iron deficiency anaemia is at about 73% of children under five years, 50% of pregnant women and accounts for about 30% of maternal deaths.
Children below the age of five are stunted due to malnutrition.
The recent Uganda Demographic and Health Survey shows the consequences of long-term nutritional deprivation can culminate in ill health and death.
"Iodine was one of the nutritional problems but was wiped out after the ministry made sure that all imported salt is iodized," said Tushemereirwe.
"The soybean gene 'Ferritin' has been inserted in the banana cells to make protein that enhances the stores iron in banana fruit pulp," said Dr. Geofrey Arinaitwe, the banana biofortification project co-principle investigator.
Already, 132 different transgenic banana lines put out in the confined field trial have each been inserted with the gene independently.
After the bio-fortification research, pro-vitamin A and iron-rich bananas will go through food and environment safety assessments before they are released to farmers.