Announcing a Freemium version! Get your FREE subscription to Organic Insider today!

GMO-Bananas are Going Into Human Trials – Why This Won’t End Well

GMO-Bananas are Going Into Human Trials - Why This Won't End Well

I am not sure why it is but so many people, myself included, have an incredibly strong emotional attachment to bananas. This love for bananas extends to all parts of the world, and I saw this first-hand when I visited a banana plantation in Costa Rica. In fact, people who dedicate their life’s work to bananas are […]

Bananas GMO

Bunch Of Organic Ripe Bananas

I am not sure why it is but so many people, myself included, have an incredibly strong emotional attachment to bananas.

This love for bananas extends to all parts of the world, and I saw this first-hand when I visited a banana plantation in Costa Rica. In fact, people who dedicate their life’s work to bananas are affectionately called bananeros.

So, when I heard the news that the world’s richest man and noted GMO-advocate, Bill Gates, is funding a human trial of genetically-modified bananas, I got absolutely sick to my stomach.

James Dale, Director of the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities at Queensland University of Technology in Australia, announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had donated close to $10M to finance this project and that human trials would take place over a six-week period in the U.S.

The results are expected to be revealed by the end of 2014, and the bananas used for the trials have been grown in Australia and are now being shipped to America for students to consume at Iowa State University. The bananas have already been tested on Mongolian gerbils. 

While these FrankenBananas may look like ordinary bananas on the outside, on the inside it is a completely different story. The flesh has a strong orange color to it, instead of a pale one.

The ultimate goal is to have these bananas growing in Uganda and other African countries sometime within the next decade. It has been reported the approval for full-scale commercialization of genetically-modified crops in Uganda is expected by 2020.


While saving kids from malnutrition in Africa makes for great headlines and is a very noble cause, the attempt to alleviate this problem through increased nutrition via the genetic-modification of one food, also known as biofortification, is just a horrible idea.

Here’s why:

– As we have seen, there are SERIOUS health risks associated with all genetically-modified foods.

– If adopted, these GM-bananas will be grown as one large monoculture, which will kill all biodiversity.

– This is just one more way for Dale and other holders of the patents of these GM-bananas to control the food supply in and extract royalties from very poor countries in Africa.

– The GM-bananas could cross-contaminate other native plant species in Uganda and other African countries. A perfect example of this is what has happened with GM-maize in Mexico.

Bob Phelps, Director and Founder of Gene Ethics, believes that biofortification is an obstacle to food justice and is not the solution.

He says that “most malnutrition and starvation are really the food access disasters of poverty, inequity and social injustice. Thus, the challenge to feed everyone well is much more than adding one or two key nutrients to an impoverished diet dominated by a staple food or two. Yet biofortification enthusiasts such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation do not intend to redress the lack of access to diverse healthy foods for all. They merely propose to add one or two micronutrients to fortify the same few staple foods that most poor people now have to rely on.”

These same groups, Bill Gates et al, are also trying to introduce GM-bananas into India where iron deficiency is a problem. Famed environmentalist and food activist Vandana Shiva has started a campaign called No to GMO Bananas to fight against this plan.


Poverty and malnutrition throughout the world are very serious issues but are largely political ones. We have enough food to feed everyone but the resources are not being directed in the correct manner.

As we have seen so far in history, GMOs have been nothing but empty promises.

In its study Failure to Yield, the Union of Concerned Scientists reported that the biotech industry has been carrying out gene field trials to increase yields for 20 years, all without significant results.

GMOs have caused a massive, massive problem of superweeds and have resulted in a huge increase of pesticide use.

As such, there is no reason to believe that GM-bananas in Africa will deliver any different of an outcome.

This is just one big disaster waiting to happen.

UPDATE AS OF 12/9/14:

In a letter written from The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, a Pan-African platform comprising networks and farmer organizations working in Africa, and backed by more than 120 different food groups and 20 individual scientists, these parties are protesting the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for funding the current human trials of genetically-modified, beta-carotene-enriched bananas intended for Africa.


Want to stay up-to-date on the most important news and products in the organic food world?

If so, make sure you Like my Facebook page, follow me on Instagram and join my email list.

To join my newsletter list, please enter your email below and I’ll send you my Top 5 Inexpensive Ways to Shop Organic.

Signature: Have a great day!


  • Kristine says:

    All banana’s are now GMO. There is only a few plants of Gros Michael, in the hills of Jamaica.

  • Justin W Peek says:

    They can send me to college but they can’t make me think.

  • Ps says:

    More depopulation!

  • Sarkin says:

    Some quick research online will uncover hundreds of articles from the past decade about creating bananas that are capable of carrying vaccines…hmmm sounds a little fishy Mr Gates.

  • There are a couple of issues with this article, one dealing with GMO bananas and the other is biofortification/malnutrition.

    First the GMO issue. I am fully on board with not using or buying GMO corn, soybeans and canola. It is true that there are apparently significant problems with both human and animal ingestion of GMO products. That being said, the banana industry is facing SERIOUS issues with regard to Black sigatoka (a fungal disease that is drastically reducing yields) and panama disease that has the potential to completely wipe out Cavendish bananas. What is the solution? Hybridization is one possibility, but with all monocultures, one problem with one plant can quickly overwhelm a region, wiping out ALL the crop, sometimes forever. GMO might be the answer, but it just depends on what they are trying to accomplish. GMO corn, soya and canola are modified so that toxic chemicals can be sprayed on them to reduce labor and increase the profits of Monsanto. The question remains, what have they changed in the banana genetics and why?

    As far as biofortification of produce, I assume you are referring to the Vitamin A rice project. I think that is a bad idea since if you need a vitamin, eat the plant that produces that vitamin. But there is another way to biofortify a food, and that is by balancing the soil with the proper ratio of minerals and microbes so that the plant can reach its full genetic potential. That is what my company, Mighty Grow Organics, strives to do, produce organic fertilizers that give the farmer the tools needed to provide the nutrient dense food that people want, need and crave.

    If all you are eating is poor quality vegetables, then you are slowly starving yourself to death.

    “We dig our grave with a knife and fork.”

    • Justin W Peek says:

      I respect your opinion on GMO but wholly disagree.
      GMOs are created for convenience ONLY and not an answer to a growing population.
      The largest consumer next to Europe of banannas is the U.S. – the Kings of Convenience.
      We can easily go without one kind of produce for a week or many more and substitute with another IF we were really interested/educated on how the Earth itself feels about GMOs.
      I imagine the Earths reply to ALL frankenfood to be “Why?”.

  • Jamie says:

    Excellent article.

  • Annette says:

    This is so frustrating, I’ve been eliminating those foods that are GM because I can’t afford all the food I buy Organic. Pretty soon I won’t be eating at all. ><

  • There are many natural varieties of bananas, some of which have more carotenoids (precursors to Vitamin A) than the typical bananas. We don’t need genetic modification to supply this trait.

  • As Bob Phelps correctly points out: Malnutrition is caused by the lack of a diverse diet. The solution is to give people with this problem better access to different nutritional and natural foods. Attempting to solve this by biofortification (or chemical fortification for that sake) is a completely backwards way of trying to solve it. Do we not wish these people better than eating just a couple of staple foods for the rest of their lives? I think we should.

  • Beth says:

    We already have counterfeit corn, soy, canola and sugar beets. We do not need counterfeit bananas.

    I wish Bill Gates would channel his creativity, energy and billions back to the technology world. His focus on re-engineering the double helix and patenting new DNA-modified lifeforms like mosquitoes custom made to deliver GMO vaccines with each bug bite are pretty horrifying.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.