Monday, June 08, 2015

The Radioactive Farmer

Over at Vox, they note that obsessive fear-mongering about FDA regulation of GMO foods obscures the fact that people have been modifying plant and animal genes for many thousands of years, and "traditional" agriculture is pretty far removed from what people think it is.

Ever since the 1920s, scientists have been exposing seeds to ionizing radiation or chemicals in order to induce random mutations. Some of the resulting mutant plants end up having desirable traits.

This isn't some sci-fi fantasy. More than 2,500 varieties of plants bred through mutagenesis have been released since the 1930s — including rice, wheat, barley, peas, sunflowers, peanuts, grapefruit. There are even organic foods produced using mutation breeding, such as Rio Red grapefruits.

This is considered a "conventional" breeding technique — it's not regulated the way GMO foods are, which is why companies like BASF and Monsanto are turning toward it.

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