Iowa University Pays Students to Take Part in GMO Trials

Mar 02, 2016 05:20 AM EST | By Josine Macaspac (media@latinospost.com)

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Twelve out of 500 young women were selected to participate in a study involving genetically modified bananas in Des Moines, Iowa. The participants are to be paid $900 each to eat three bananas, one of which has been modified to contain high levels of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is associated with the production of Vitamin A in the body, so this study aims to address the problem of Vitamin A deficiency.

The bananas were genetically modified at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia and was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The study, however, will be conducted at Iowa State University later in the year.

Purpose and Conduct of the Trial

Should the trial be a success, the bananas will hopefully address the Vitamin A deficiency problem in Uganda. Wendy White, the food science professor behind the study, stated "In Uganda and other African countries, Vitamin A deficiency is a major contributor to deaths in childhood from infectious diseases. Wouldn't it be great if these bananas could prevent preschool kids from dying from diarrhea, malaria or measles?".

The twelve participants in the trial would each be given three bananas to eat in a span of four days, and would thereafter undergo blood tests. Only one of the bananas will be genetically modified. As for the compensation, the Food and Drug Administration states that this amount should be treated not as a benefit, but as a recruitment incentive, and is acceptable as long as the risks will be disclosed to the participants.

Controversy

Last week, GMO critics delivered a petition containing over 57,000 signatures asking for the suspension of the trial to the Gates Foundation and the Colleges of Life Science and Agriculture at Iowa State University. They asked that the entities behind this study be more transparent about the study in general and its possible risks.

The type of bananas used in the study was also questioned by some critics, who claim that other kinds of bananas could be utilized in the study instead of the ones currently used. However, the scientists explained that the bananas being recommended are of a sweet variety that Ugandans normally do not consume. That is why for the study, they used a type of banana that was less sweet and was often used for cooking in Uganda.

Overall, the goal of the study is to provide a principal source of Vitamin A for developing countries. Its triumph has a great potential in resolving a key nutrition problem.

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