Spontaneous mutations are key to evolution and agriculture. Irradiating seeds imitates this natural process by inducing mutations in plants, a process known as plant mutation breeding. See how this technique has led to better pasta and rice, healthier grapefruit and brightens up gardens - and learn how scientists are using it to rescue the banana from a new strain of a deadly fungus that threatens the global supply!
Plants continually mutate over time to adapt to changing environments and external stressors such as pests and diseases. These spontaneous mutations are key to evolution and laid the foundation for the domestication of crops more than 10,000 years ago. By exposing seeds or plant tissue to radiation such as gamma rays, scientists speed up this natural process, enabling breeders to develop new varieties that have impacted food and agriculture worldwide.
The IAEA, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, has been assisting Member States in using radiation technology to create new varieties of plants for decades. The Joint FAO/IAEA Mutant Variety Database counts over 3,200 improved plants, out of which 510 have been bred to be more resistant to pests and diseases, 260 to tolerate heat stress and 330 to resist fungal infections.
See how this technique has led to better pasta and rice, healthier grapefruit and brighter gardens - and learn how scientists are using it to combat climate change and rescue the banana from a new strain of a deadly fungus that threatens the global supply!