A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands
This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.
The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.
SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).
PAPGREN coordination and support
Mr William Wigmore
Mr Adelino S. Lorens
Dr Lois Englberger
Mr Apisai Ucuboi
Dr Maurice Wong
Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
Mr Frederick Muller
Mr Herman Francisco
Ms Rosa Kambuou
Ms Laisene Samuelu
Mr Jimi Saelea
Mr Tony Jansen
Mr Finao Pole
Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
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Sunday, October 02, 2005
Posted 3:47 PM by Luigi
News about carotenoids in banana and other Pacific crops
From Dr Lois Englberger.
I am back from the International Congress of Nutrition, held in Durban, South Africa. It was a great meeting and I learned a lot. While there, I learned about the electronic version of an FAO poster on indigenous foods, which features Karat banana:
You may recall that Karat is one of the most carotenoid-rich bananas in the world. Provitamin A carotenoids protect against vitamin A deficiency and anemia, and carotenoid-rich foods may also protect against diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Karat is also very rich in riboflavin, vitamin B2, and is likely to be the most riboflavin-rich banana in the world as well! Very few plant foods are rich in riboflavin. The poster does not however give the information on Karat's riboflavin content as it was developed prior to our work in that area of food composition.
Professor Harriet Kuhnlein and the Centre for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment developed the poster. As you see, they have selected seven nutrient-rich indigenous foods from around the world, and presented photos and information about those foods. So it is quite neat that Karat is among those seven!
My oral presentation was at the main meeting on Tuesday 20 September and was titled "Indigenous Food Resources in the Federated States of Micronesia." A short paper was written for this presentation and that is available for any interested. This is mainly a summary of our work identifying and promoting nutrient-rich foods (such as Karat). Also I presented a poster on Kiribati and Marshall Islands pandanus, which is a product of my work in 2003 and 2004, in collaboration with the various agencies and officers there. The abstract for this is also available, and I can later provide it in the published version for those interested.
You might note that I also took some dried Karat banana to the meeting in South Africa and showed it to some researchers for the DSM Nutritional Products, based in Switzerland. They were very impressed and one said that in Europe the Karat banana would be considered a "functional food", having special health benefits. Sight and Life and the DSM Nutritional Products laboratory in Switzerland have also been very supportive in helping us find out about the nutrient content of Karat.
There are several pieces of press coverage on carotenoids provided by the International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain (INIBAP). This is a real breakthrough as carotenoids are not usually mentioned in that primarily agricultural-based organization.
Through the encouragement of an agriculturalist of a regional Pacific organization, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, I submitted an abstract for the First International Congress on Musa, held in July 2004. That abstract was accepted for an oral presentation, and there was later a lot of press coverage. First, the abstract was published in their abstracts book:
Englberger L and Lorens A. 2004. Banana cultivars in Micronesia: newly
Then INIBAP put out a press release on the findings of the Karat banana, and this led to an article in the New Scientist as follows:
Coghlan A. 2004. Orange banana to boost kids' eyes. New Scientist 10 July 2004. http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996120
Following that was a myriad of articles all over the world, many which I could not read because of their being in foreign languages, including Chinese, Hindi, Vietnamese, Italian, but also in the Guardian of the UK and in Die Welt of Germany. Many journalists later wrote me and asked for further photos and information, and one lay magazine later sent me a copy of their issue of "L'actualite" October 2004, where they had the article in French...even giving the information that the Karat banana contains 25 times the beta-carotene content compared to the common banana.
The INIBAP organizers and scientific writer later wrote this in their InfoMusa Vol 13, No. 2, 2004, in the article "Highlights on the First International congress on Musa" (p 38):
The abstracts of the oral presentations and posters are available on INIBAP's website at www.inibap.org.
I am very convinced (and other of my colleagues are too) that there is an immense still unrecognized potential in carotenoid-rich banana varieties throughout the world, and that this could have an immense effect in improving health, not only vitamin A deficiency but in alleviating certain chronic disease problems. Yet, we have not yet been very successful in getting the attention of a funding opportunity for supporting this work, not only of promoting the rare banana varieties already identified as carotenoid-rich, but also of continuing the work in identifying further varieties, and looking into other issues, such as bioavailability of the carotenoids in bananas.
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