Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bananas, Vitamin A, and Ignorance

Article: Scientists Ready to Test 'Super Banana' on Humans: Fruit could save lives through vitamin A
Vitamin A deficiency kills hundreds of thousands of children worldwide; hundreds of thousands more go blind, says a researcher.
A group of researchers have engineered a variety of bananas to produce precursors of vitamin A. Like golden rice, widespread use of this crop would help reduce vitamin A deficiency due to malnutrition in undeveloped countries.

So, help millions of children to grow up to be healthy, productive adults? Or oppose genetically modified crops and condemn them to death or blindness?

The article showed 3 comments of about 200 when I read the article. The third one said something irrelevant, but ended up with, "no thank you to GMO's." At least he was polite.

I decided to skim through the comments. I did not go through them all; they were too depressing. I am a science teacher and I am under no delusions about what students graduate from high school knowing about science. And about the half comments had some sort of stupidity/ignorance/willful blindness about the various scientific issues.

"Bananas have no fat!" "Autism is increasing because of science!" "If they are not getting vitamin A through their food it is because they aren't getting any food!" "Just what we need, more frankenfoods."

One commenter noted that bananas tend to be eaten raw and plantains tend to be cooked. The article talks about cooking the bananas. So did the researchers use bananas? Or plantains?

Both are same "plant". Some cultivars are specifically eaten raw and are called "desert bananas." Some cultivars are always cooked. Many are eaten both ways. And I have had cooked "desert bananas."

One person repeatedly cut and pasted the same rant as "replies" to other commenters. One point he made was, I think, that bananas cannot have vitamin A in them because they have no fat. However, all living things have fat in them, even if those fats/lipids are not nutritionally significant ("0%"). And bananas have some vitamin A already. The green leaves of spinach also have no nutritionally significant amounts of fats and lipids. On the other hand, they are high in fat-soluable chlorophyll and the same vitamin A precursors that have been added to banana. Which is why spinach is recognized as a good source of vitamin A.

Other commenters focused on the EEEEVVVVIIILLLL of companies, like Monsanto, turning a profit from GMO's. I have never been able to relate to the argument that profits are evil. As far as I have ever been able to determine it is just another "argument from envy." "You're rich; I hate you." Yawn.

I remember all too well the first gas crisis. The oil cartel, OPEC, cut production and raised prices. This cut supply. Because demand remained the same, oil prices soared. Gasoline prices followed suit. Oil companies' profits also soared (although not as much). Congress investigated, ready to attack EVIL oil companies for "obscene profits." What they found was relatively simple and easy to understand, even for grandstanding politicians. If 5% of a companies income is profit, then 5% of more income is more profit. They still make the same profit margin, but on more income. Therefore their profits go up. When I was relatively young, gas sold at $0.299 per gallon (or 29.9 cents). It is now pushing $4.00 per gallon in my area. I would expect the "obscene profits" of oil companies to be correspondingly larger.

At any rate, to get back to the main point: Help children or stop GMO's? Either I believe that each child is made in God's image, as I am, and I bring my ideology (and we all have an ideology) and my behavior in line with that belief. Or I believe that vast swaths of humanity are worthless, especially compared to me and the "tribe" that agrees with me.

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