The adventures of the Atomic Gardening Society  APR 22 2011

Not just a Cold War-era relic...

Atomic tomatoes

...the use of radiation to introduce genetic changes in food (aka "atomic gardening") is alive and well today.

What's more, the Times adds, nearly 2,000 gamma radiation-induced mutant crop varieties have been registered around the world, including Calrose 76, a dwarf varietal that accounts for about half the rice grown in California, and the popular Star Ruby and Rio Red grapefruits, whose deep colour is a mutation produced through radiation breeding in the 1970s. Similarly, Johnson tells Pruned that "most of the global production of mint oil," with an annual market value estimated at $930 million, is extracted from the "wilt-resistant 'Todd's Mitcham' cultivar, a product of thermal neutron irradiation." She adds that "the exact nature of the genetic changes that cause it to be wilt-resistant remain unknown."

The atomic gardening photos from Life magazine in 1961 are kind of great.

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