Bananas to help pregnant women in India

Bananas to help pregnant women in India

Bananas to help pregnant women in India

Updated 9 March 2012, 22:25 AEDT

Bananas from the Australian state of Queensland could soon be helping to save the lives of pregnant mothers in India.

The Queensland University of Technology has signed an agreement with India's Department of Biotechnology to invest in a four year project to develop iron-rich bananas.

Professor James Dale says the research is an extension of a far-north Queensland program, backed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

"It means that we'll be working with five Indian Institutes to develop bananas particularly with high levels of iron," he said.

"The reason that we're targeting particularly iron is that much of the Indian population has high level of iron deficiency anaemia because many of them are vegetarians and it's very difficult from a vegetarian diet to get enough iron."

Professor Dale says iron-deficiency anaemia is a major cause of maternal death during childbirth in India.

He told Radio Australia's Asia Pacific that the genetically modified bananas are safe to eat.

"These are naturally occurring micro-nutrients in bananas, we're just enhancing the amount that bananas are making.

"So in Africa, we're still probably five to six years away from releasing these to farmers.

"We're certainly doing a lot of research on the ground, make sure that they will be acceptable in Africa to farmers, and all the research we've done so far, suggests they are going to be."

Professor Dale says it will be about ten years before the iron-rich bananas are ready for sale in India.

"While that seems a long time, it's not really, in the development of new crops.

"We'll do the first four years, this major collaboration between Australia and India, followed by a period of development in India, where we can certainly advise, but it'll primarily be a project run in India."