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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I will not eat monsters from outerspace

They came from Outer Space! Huge monsters never seen on Earth before. And they could soon be heading towards a supermarket near you! Pumpkins 10 times their normal size, 2lb tomatoes, and all grown from seeds sent into orbit by China. But how safe are they?

These giant mutations of common fruit and vegetables are grown from seeds sent into space, and are now being grown in southern China where they are being heralded as a solution to the world's food shortage. SCARY!

A total of 22 provinces are taking part in the program, coordinated by the China Academy of Sciences as China struggles to feed its 1.3 billion population. While the West agonizes over genetically-modified crops, China is steaming ahead and they are not shy about exporting the produce. Japan, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia have all taken delivery of the mutated fruit and vegetables. European agricultural companies have also begun to show an interest in the technology.

Chinese expert Lo Zhigang believes space seeds represent the future. (Not my future!)

"Conventional agricultural development has taken us as far as we can go and demand for food from a growing population is endless. Space seeds offer the opportunity to grow fruit and vegetables bigger and faster."

Scientists have yet to offer a definitive explanation of why space causes the seeds to mutate but they believe that cosmic radiation, micro-gravity and magnetic fields may play a part. Once the seeds are returned from space they are cultivated and only fruit or vegetables that show improvements in size are selected and bred. To date China has bred more than 50 new species of plants and has plans to produce more than 200 new species. They are being marketed as "Accelerated Vegetables."

The China Academy of Sciences, working with the then Soviet Union, first started looking at the benefits of growing seeds in space in 1987. Then two years ago the Shijian-8, the first recoverable satellite designed solely to carry space seeds, was blasted into outer space on China's Long March rocket. On board were more than 2,000 seeds.

"A lot more space seed products are going to be coming on the market in the next two to three years, with sweet pepper, tomato and cucumber breeds on sale," said Mr Lo. "Some of China's space seed products are already exported to Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Japan. These include breeds of cucumber, sweet pepper, tomatoes and broccoli."

I, for one, will be planting a much larger garden in my yard this Spring! Mutations from outerspace will not be on my plate, no thank you!

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