S4:E1 | 4.9.2020

Atomic Peanuts and Gamma Grapefruit

Is the possibility of an “Atomic Garden of Eden” worth the nuclear gamble?

About this Episode

In 1927, more than 50 years before the first GMO crop hit the market, a scientist named Louis Stadler shot X-rays at barley. The result was a random mutation—a change in the color of the plant. While not particularly useful, it showed that with radiation, scientists could roll the genetic dice, press fast-forward on natural selection, and with enough rolls, maybe even uncover something new- a useful mutant. The Atomic Age would inspire a generation of scientists to blast crops with Cobalt-60 radiation. Even civilians got in on the action. But today, this type of breeding is all but forgotten. Is the possibility of an “Atomic Garden of Eden” worth the nuclear gamble?

This story was originally reported for Eaten Magazine. It’s a new gorgeous print magazine that focuses on all-things food history. You can find it at eatenmagazine.com.

About the Reporter

Stefanie Robey is a producer at Maryland Public Television. Her stories about the state’s food production systems have taken her to more than 100 farms and ag-related businesses. In addition to her work with MPT, she’s a contributor to the food history magazine Eaten.

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