Producer: Juanita Perez-Vargas, Video Editor: Gjergj Mazi
At the IAEA 2011 General Conference, visitors to the exhibition booth of the Department of Nuclear Science and Applications were given an unusual gift - a baby banana plant. The plantlets had been grown from irradiated banana leaves at the Agency's laboratories, south of Vienna, Austria. Scientists at the Plant Breeding and Genetics laboratories use radiation to induce changes in plants. This method, known as Radiation Induced Mutation, speeds up a natural process that otherwise can take millions of years. The aim is to produce crops that are more nutritious, have better yields, are disease-resistant or can thrive in adverse climate conditions or harsh environments. The IAEA regularly supports crop improvement programmes in some 100 Member States. One of these crops is the banana. In the developing world, bananas are an important source of nutrition and a staple in many diets. But the plant is threatened by many factors.