Biotech Updates

FAO Expects Return of Seeds from Space

March 29, 2023

Seeds sent to outer space in November 2022 are expected to return to Earth after four months. The breakthrough experiment, led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), aims to develop new crops that can adapt to climate change and help boost food security.

The Arabidopsis and sorghum seeds traveled in a cargo shuttle from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility to space, where they were exposed to “out of this world” conditions such as cosmic radiation, microgravity, and extreme temperatures inside and outside the International Space Stations.

Upon the seeds' return to Earth, which is expected to happen in April, they will be sown and screened by researchers at the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture. How the plants will grow will provide insights into space-induced mutations.

"This is science that could have a real impact on people's lives in the not-too-distant future, by helping us grow stronger crops and feed more people," the IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said. "IAEA and FAO scientists may have already been mutating seeds for 60 years and creating thousands of stronger crops for the world to use, but this is the first time we have experimented with such an exciting field as astrobiology,” said Grossi.

Read more from FAO.

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