We, the undersigned, ask that the Dean of Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Dr. Wendy Wintersteen, answer students’ and Ames community members’ questions about the current Gates Foundation-funded transgenic banana human trials underway at Iowa State University. We request that her response be shared publicly through an official university statement posted on the CALS website or, ideally, a public discussion with students and community members. While ISU maintains their participation in this study “focuses on a single human nutrition question,” their claims and assumptions are much broader and relate to cultural, economic, and sociological questions. If these questions cannot be answered in a transparent manner that justifies the sociological and biological claims made about study impacts, we believe the banana study to be an inappropriate use of state funds and lab space.
- How will the bananas be cooked and consumed by study participants? Will the study control for what foods will be eaten with the bananas? How will food preparation and consumption compare with how bananas are prepared and consumed across different regions in Uganda?
- Will differences in physiology between Iowa State students and the target consumers – Ugandans – be taken into account?
- How, and for how long, will the bananas be stored before consumption, and how does this compare with storage methods used across different regions in Uganda?
- How have safety concerns been addressed, and what risks were study participants informed of when they agreed to take part in the study?
- How do ISU administrators justify their socioeconomic claims that this banana will alleviate malnutrition in Uganda?
- Who owns or will own the transgenic banana technology? How will the technology be made freely available to the public? To what extent has transparency, particularly regarding control or ownership of the GM banana, been addressed with this staple food crop?
- How does this study compliment any existing alternative approaches to solving Vitamin A deficiencies in Uganda?
The answers to these questions will help to validate the claims made by Iowa State University officials about the potential uses of this technology, clarify the purpose and methods of the study undertaken by Iowa State University, and will not be used to malign individual researchers in any way.