Gene junction | india | Hindustan Times
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Gene junction

india Updated: Aug 29, 2007 22:55 IST
Hindustan Times
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Divinity, or ‘nature’ as scientists call the foreign hand, zaps genes in all living beings to create mutants. This is the basis of evolution and the ones that are unpalatable are what we call freaks. Now scientists are zapping genetic material in plants so that the vegetables that the plants will eventually become, follow the management grid — maximised on utility, optimised on resources. It’s called radiation breeding and has been around for ages.

Those wary of Frankenfoods can relax, radiation breeding being the lesser of two evils, the other being the genetically modified (GM) foods. GM foods use technology that splices the genetic material, and so new ‘information’ can be added to or deleted from the particular genome. Radiation breeding, on the other hand, is free of such interference. It plays around with existent genetic material, just tweaking some DNA here and there to create, well, square tomatoes and tastier pears? Actually, it goes a little beyond that, better yields of wheat, disease-free rice and all the wholesome benefits that do not qualify as designer foods. Apparently, a quarter of all mutated species planted in the world are in China. There are about 40 kinds of plants developed by radiation breeding mutation in China over an area of 9 million hectares per year.

For the uninitiated, this is nuclear science at its most basic. Oops, did someone say ban the dratted zap?