China to 'space-mutate' seeds

China intends to launch a satellite aimed at developing super space-enhanced fruit, vegetables and other crops.

    China has been experimenting with space-bred seeds for years

    The Shijian-8, a recoverable satellite, will be launched at the beginning of September aboard a Long March 2C rocket.

    The two-week mission will expose 2,000 seeds to cosmic radiation and micro-gravity.

    The space seed experiments come as the nation seeks ways to feed its 1.3 billion people amid a rapid decline in farm land due to swift industrialisation.

    Sun Laiyan, head of the China National Space Administration, said the "seed satellite" would enable scientists to try to cultivate high-yield and high-quality plants.

    Exposed to special environment such as cosmic radiation and micro-gravity, it is hoped that some seeds will mutate to such an extent that they may produce much higher yields and improved quality.

    Nine categories of seeds, including grains, cash crops and forage plants will be aboard the satellite.

    Vitamin content

    China has been experimenting with space-bred seeds for years, with rice and wheat exposed to the atmosphere resulting in increased yields.

    Space-bred tomato and green peppers seeds have resulted in harvests between 10% and 20% larger than ordinary seeds, while vegetables grown from space-bred seeds have a higher vitamin content.

    The satellite will be the first dedicated specifically for seeds.

    The nation already produces genetically modified tomatoes, soy beans and corn, and is considering plans to approve the production of genetically modified rice.



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