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Atomic gardening: Day of the irradiated peanuts

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posted on Jun, 9 2011 @ 02:14 PM
This is something I found today. It's not new, although it's interesting and kind of worrying I didn't realize many crop varieties today came from radiated crops in the 50's and 60's.

ne March day in 1959, in the sleepy British seaside town of Eastbourne, a nuclear enthusiast decided to feed her dinner guests irradiated peanuts and potatoes that had been preserved with radioactive sodium. While Muriel Howorth's guests were unsure about their repast, the unusual dinner was the start of an unforeseen chain reaction that led to the birth of one of the quirkiest horticultural collectives there has ever been: the Atomic Gardening Society.

The society encouraged members to grow plants under radioactive conditions so that beneficial mutations would arise. The idea might sound strange, even dangerous, now - but back in the 1950s it was part of a broader trend. The movement was part of a concerted effort in the US and Europe to find beneficial uses for atomic energy after the destruction caused by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Johnson discovered the Atomic Gardening society while studying atomic motifs in gardens. She was quite unprepared to find this literal expression of the power of the atom in the garden. "When I first heard about atomic gardening I thought it was a joke," she says. "It sounded like something out of the B movies of the 1950s - giant ants and that sort of thing."

Giant ants maybe not, but the peanuts to which Howorth subjected her atomic dinner party guests had been bombarded with18,500 roentgens of X-rays - that's 37 times the dose that would kill a person in 5 hours. The peanuts originated in the lab of Walter Gregory of North Carolina State University, who would select beneficial mutants from the plants he zapped - those which produced larger or more numerous peanuts than usual. His thick-hulled "North Carolina fourth-generation X-rayed" (NC4x) strain was the size of an almond (Crops and Soils, vol 12, p 12), and it was one of these that he sent to Howorth.

Gregory called the NC4x as "a milestone in crop breeding". When a NC4x Howorth planted germinated in a quick four days, it was hailed by garden writer Beverley Nichols as: "the most sensational plant in Britain... It is the first 'atomic' peanut"....

The legacy of the atomic gardens can still be seen today. Working gamma gardens exist in Japan, and varieties descended from irradiated plants - such as the Rio red grapefruit - stack our supermarket shelves. 70 per cent of the peppermint sold in the US is descended from a mutant in a neutron-irradiated source. Even if atomic gardening was a misguided experiment, it has thrown up some unexpectedly tasty results.

It's also interesting to see guilt over Hiroshima and Nagasaki mentioned. I wonder what the full extent nuclear lobbying and suppression of the harmful effects of radiation has been that has occured because of guilt by the US over the bombings.

posted on Jun, 9 2011 @ 02:16 PM
I haven't seen any guilt over the bombings from anyone as most know the 2 bombs dropped on Japan saved far more lives than would have been lost had we needed to invade.

I have seen some guilt expressed over using American troops in nuclear blast zones to measure the effects of radiation however.

posted on Jun, 9 2011 @ 02:22 PM
I don't mean guilt so much by the people of the country. I mean more in the policies that were carried out afterwards regarding nuclear safety. It's not so much that people were feeling guilty I suppose but more about how you can't even really mention the dangers of nuclear energy. Guilty was probably the wrong word to use, as far as I can tell today though most people (that I've talked to at least) still believe nuclear power will save us from dependence on fossil fuels. The dangers of nuclear power is just not a subject that is spoken about. Even after the ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan I was told by myresoration ecology professor, th when I questioned the environmental impacts that would occur, that the above ground testing in the 50's spread more radiation and that we should just not worry about it.
edit on 9-6-2011 by dug88 because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 9 2011 @ 02:27 PM
That's because it's not really all that dangerous in the grand scope of things. Sure if one goes down it will have an effect but look at Chernobyl when it collapsed, to most people it's just something to read about in the paper since they can see no effect of it in their lives.

And if you consider all the nuclear plants and ships operating in the world compared to how many accidents there have been it's hard to say it's really all that dangerous. Even the hundreds of above ground nuclear tests haven't had any noticable affect on people's lives so they just are not that worried about it.

It is also really hard to argue with the benefits nuclear power offers compared to fossil fuels.

posted on Jun, 9 2011 @ 02:33 PM
reply to post by kro32

I certainly agree that our dependence on fossil fuels need to change. Just the fact that we are generating electricity by producing steam, with radioactive materials, to spin turbines just seems kind of insane to me. These materials when spent are arguably more toxic than when still active. These spent fuel rods then need to be stored somewhere indefinitely, as in 100's of years. This just seems like one of the most short sighted and arrogant things the human race can do. We boil water with these materials. There are storage facilities in this world that have to be supplied with power, manned, and operated 24/7 or they will release their toxic substance. The storage facilities we have have proven time and again to be grossly inadequate and the technology used in most nuclear powerplants is ridiculously out of date and dangerous.

posted on Jun, 9 2011 @ 04:17 PM
reply to post by kro32

I haven't seen any guilt over the bombings from anyone as most know the 2 bombs dropped on Japan saved far more lives than would have been lost had we needed to invade.

Wrong. Japan had been offering to surrender for more than a month. If it had been accepted, where would the US be able to demonstrate its new nuclear capacity?

Maybe it has impacted children that we now see as being fatter? That would be a twist.

I think a fear of public indignation created this desire to find and present a beneficial side to atomic utilities.
Gardening, super-heroes concept, enhancing of the quality of life by reducing dependency on energy, etc.

That turned out great... But since we are told "mutants" aren't viable, how can one be viable and transmitted?...

posted on Jun, 9 2011 @ 04:22 PM
reply to post by dug88

I certainly agree that our dependence on fossil fuels need to change. Just the fact that we are generating electricity by producing steam, with radioactive materials, to spin turbines just seems kind of insane to me.

I'm sure there is a report somewhere showing that using nuclear energy is the safest and cheapest way to boil water. As if a few tons of garbage burning couldn't accomplish that...

BTW, I'll never look at my food the same way now...

posted on Jun, 9 2011 @ 04:33 PM
reply to post by kro32

I saw a post a few months ago with a similar argument.

Why are there risings in cancer cases? You think they would tell us radiation was responsible?

They tell you to not have too many x-rays for fear of developing cancers, but Chernobyl was safe?

Just look at how news from Japan are managed currently. They won't give you the time of day, much less the real effects of radiation.

posted on Jun, 9 2011 @ 04:50 PM
We still use a "gregory" variety in our peanut plant today, though I haven't seen it in a couple of years. The majority of peanuts consumed are of "spanish" or "runner" varieties. That is what all of the big names use in their products, hershey, mars, etc. The gregory, or "virginia" variety is prized for its inshell quality, and is the used for roasted inshell consumption, like at baseball games.

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