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IAEA and FAO to Host Seeds in Space Event

Vienna, Austria

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are hosting an event about their joint science research project on seeds in space, an experiment aimed at intensifying efforts to develop new crops able to adapt to the ravages of climate change here on Earth.

The event — Seeds in Space: ‘Cosmic crops’ for food security and climate change adaptation — will take place at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU) on 27 March 2023, 14:00–15:30 CEST, one week before the expected return of the seeds to Earth after several months at the International Space Station (ISS).

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu will deliver opening messages. NASA Astronaut Kayla Barron will discuss her experience working and carrying out experiments at the International Space Station. Plant breeding and genetics expert Shoba Sivasankar will present the science behind the project. This will be followed by an interactive question and answer session. The event, which will explain why this research is vital in supporting food security and economic development around the world, will be livestreamed.

On 7 November the IAEA and FAO sent seeds to the International Space Station (ISS), to investigate the effects of cosmic radiation and harsh space conditions (microgravity and extreme temperatures) on breeding new crop varieties that can withstand the effects of climate change and help fight global hunger.

Upon their return, these seeds will be germinated, grown and screened for desirable traits. These analyses will help to understand whether cosmic radiation and harsh space conditions will lead to crops becoming more resilient in the face of increasingly difficult growing conditions on Earth.

Held just one week before the expected return of the seeds to Earth, the event will explain why this research is vital in supporting food security and economic development around the world.

While similar experiments have been carried out since 1946, it is the first time the IAEA and FAO are conducting an astrobiology project, based on 60 years of experience of the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture in inducing mutations in plants for improving crops.

One goal of the experiment is to compare the DNA and growth effects of the seeds exposed to space conditions with those exposed to radiation in a laboratory on Earth. So far, over 3400 new varieties of more than 210 plant species have been developed in the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre in Seibersdorf using radiation-induced variation and mutation breeding — including numerous food crops, ornamentals and trees used by farmers in 70 countries.


The event will take place in lecture hall HS 02 on the ground floor of the BOKU, Muthgasse 18, 1190 Vienna.

Press Opportunities

Journalists are welcome to attend the event. Those who wish to attend in person are requested to inform the IAEA Press Office at press@iaea.org and to present their press identification upon arrival.

Last update: 26 March 2023

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