For centuries, quinoa and amaranth have been cultivated in the High Andes of Peru. These highly nutritious cereals were even consumed by the Incas.
Today, demand for these products is on the increase in places like North America, Japan and in European countries.
Plant breeder, Professor Luz Gomez Pando, is trying to develop new varieties of quinoa and amaranth that have a higher yield and are more nutritious. She is using a nuclear technique in her work, which uses radiation to induce positive changes in plants. The gamma rays speed up the process of spontaneous change that occurs in nature but can take millions of years.
She is also showing women in the Andes how to grow and cook these cereals. Andean women are often left to look after the family, animals and crops, while the men go into the cities to work.
Professor Gomez Pando who is based at La Molina University in Lima, Peru has been cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for nearly 40 years.
She was a guest speaker at the September IAEA Scientific Forum, which focussed on “Food for the Future: Meeting the Challenges with Nuclear Applications”. IAEA’s Louise Potterton spoke to Professor Luz Gomez Pando.