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The X-Plants: Radiation Breeding in Indian Agriculture

October 20, 2011

India has released about 1 in 10 of the mutagenically-bred varietals on the planet, with a focus on mutant breeds of rice, wheat and black dal. These genomes are selected for chemical and radiation breeding experiments because they are ubiquitous in the Indian diet. During breeding trials mutagenic cultivars are selected based on traits such as disease resistance and size and their agronomic suitability for the growing conditions in the northern states of Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Punjab.

As far as we can tell mutagenic varietals in India are not being cultivated or selected based on changes in flavor, color or texture. Flavor or culinary considerations are not explicitly mentioned as selection mechanisms in this research.

Mutation breeding was introduced to india in 1957 by the IARI (indian Agriculture Research Institute) which is the premier national instate for agriculture research, education and extension. This mutagenic research predates the green revolution in India.

Many countries use their civilian nuclear programs and research facilities to carry out mutagenic and transgenic agriculture research. At India’s Bhaba Atomic Research Centre in Trombay, Maharashta they have a long list of the cultivars that have been generated. According to the amazingly chaotic and colorful website:

“The Trombay crop varieties have been popularized through various awareness programmes, exhibitions, kisan melas and farmer’s rallies.”


FoodLab Bangalore – is a 3 week workshop the Center for Genomic Gastronomy conducted with sophomores from the Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology in the fall of 2011. Students will examine innovation and conservation in South Asian food cultures, building on recent research of the Center (utopian cuisines, mutagenic meals) and working towards the next edition of the Planetary Sculpture Supper Club to be held in Bangalore on Nov. 12th.

Follow the conversation all week here on our Blog, join in the comments and use the twitter hashtag #foodlabbangalore to keep up to date.

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