Ames Tribune, 20 September 2015
Last spring, Iowa State University students learned about planned human trials of a laboratory-developed banana on our campus.
An email to the student body announced that the Department of Food Science and Nutrition was seeking female volunteers aged 18-40 to eat these bananas in exchange for $900.
The banana that ISU is hoping to test is genetically modified and is developed in Australia for Ugandan markets. The banana has been modified to contain elevated levels of beta carotene, and is therefore claimed to augment the Vitamin A levels in its consumers.
The testing of the GM banana would be the first human feeding trial of a GM product ever.
While that itself is enough to spark concern, this summer we learned that these products have not yet been tested on animals.
ISU stated in an email that they have not conducted any other feeding tests. In addition, they have not assuaged our concerns by being able to rely on such studies done elsewhere—since, apparently, none have been performed at all. In other words, ISU students are being asked to be the first to consume a product for which the university has no data on its safety. Concerned ISU students are still awaiting answers regarding the transparency or generalizability of this study.
To see the questions and sign a petition go to http://www.isutransgenicbanana.com/sign-the-petition/.
Beyond the possible harm to students, the banana may have negative long-term impacts on Ugandan agriculture.
While we can all support the rights of Ugandans to have access to safe, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food, Ugandans have expressed increasing concern that genetically-modifying bananas are not meant to serve that purpose. Instead, many suspect the GM bananas to be an attempt to corporately capture the domestic seed market.
As this is the first known feeding trials involving transgenic foods, we believe it is important that ISU leadership ask difficult questions related to the safety and ethics of this research before moving forward.
ISU graduate students
15 October 2014