Australian-Indian partnership to develop iron-rich bananas

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Australian-Indian partnership to develop iron-rich bananas

Several Australian and Indian institutions have inked a deal to develop new strains of iron-rich bananas in a bid to tackle a leading cause of maternal death during childbirth - anaemia.

Dr James Dale

Australia's Queensland University of Technology (QUT) sealed the deal with the Indian government's Department of Biotechnology.

Partners will also include Australia's National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute, India's National Research Centre for Bananas, the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.

QUT's Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities director, professor James Dale, highlighted bananas were a staple food in India, particularly in the country's south.

"Once we develop the new banana varieties they should be widely available and provide a rich and easily accessible source of iron," he said in a release.

"This is a significant step forward in addressing a major health issue in India's nutrition deficient population," added Department of Biotechnology managing director Dr Renu Swarup.

India's Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) will provide AUD$1.4 million (US$1.44 million) towards the QUT component of the project and INR80 million (US$1.43 million) towards the cost of the Indian component.

Dale said the project would build upon ongoing research QUT was undertaking to increase the nutritional content of bananas in Uganda under the auspices of the Gates Foundatioin.

He said the Indian banana project would involve an initial four-year development phase and it would then take another four to five years to prepare the bananas for release to Indian farmers.

"Iron-deficiency is a problem for all developing countries associated with low nutrition, not just vegetarianism."

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