Ask a Question forum: Will microwave radiation alter plant seeds?

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Name: Keith
West Babylon, NY (Zone 7a)
Region: United States of America Winter Sowing Plays in the sandbox Birds Native Plants and Wildflowers Tomato Heads
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keithp2012
Dec 12, 2014 11:14 PM CST
If I'm growing a plant on top of my microwave for months, and save seeds to grow from that plant, will the microwave radiation have affected those seeds causing small mutations in the plants I grow from those seeds?
Name: Tom Cagle
SE-OH (Zone 6a)
Old, fat, and gardening in OH
Coppice
Dec 13, 2014 3:19 AM CST
It takes more than a microwave to build a triffid.
Name: Jean
Prairieville, LA (Zone 9a)
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Moonhowl
Dec 14, 2014 10:56 AM CST
From what I have read, mutagenesis , the most basic form of DNA mutation, can occur from something as simple as exposing seeds to direct sunlight for an extended period of time. I do not think you can unequivocally determine that any mutations that should occur were caused by the microwave radiation. You would have to eliminate all other possibilities such as cleaning supplies, light, heat, cold, food additives etc. basically anything in your environment that could be considered a factor.
I agree with Tom, no triffid...no Audrey II, but yes, possibly some minor mutations....but they may not be from the microwave.

http://www.growingmagazine.com/print-3520.aspx
Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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KentPfeiffer
Dec 14, 2014 6:08 PM CST

Plants Admin

If there is enough radiation escaping from the oven to cause mutations in seeds, you REALLY need a new one, because levels that high will cause all sorts of damage to your own cells. If a microwave oven is operating properly, leakage of microwaves should be almost zero.
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Dec 14, 2014 6:37 PM CST
a google search of this topic brings up a wealth of concerns and information for either side- so who knows. I own a microwave but rarely use it. They give me the creeps a little and besides the food tastes yucky. The fact that you are asking the question (about the seeds) is enough concern to yourself that you should just move your plant to another location and then you won't have to worry about it. Or am I understanding that you are wanting to see on purpose if they are altered as a sort of experiment? You could raise a plant on the microwave and then one in another room and then plant the seeds and go from there with the results, but again there are lots of variable factors that would make your outcome maybe not entirely sure. And it could take months (or longer) to see results. It sounds interesting though. I would love to read later, how your experiment turns out.
Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator Plant Identifier Region: Nebraska Forum moderator
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KentPfeiffer
Dec 14, 2014 7:06 PM CST

Plants Admin

A google search on the question of the existence of the Loch Ness Monster brings up a wealth of concerns and information for either side, too. But, it doesn't follow that there's any legitimate debate about whether they actually exist. Smiling

Unless the microwave oven is damaged or malfunctioning, seeds sitting on top of it aren't going to be exposed to microwaves. If they were, you'd have far more important things to worry about than the effect it was having of the seeds.
Name: Donald
Eastland county, Texas (Zone 8a)
Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Raises cows Plant Identifier
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needrain
Dec 14, 2014 8:36 PM CST
I think for a microwave to have any effect on a seed, the seed would have be put INSIDE and zapped. That would be as likely to sterilize the seed as cause genetic mutations. Most genetic mutations aren't all that great. They range from not noticeable to lethal. Only in rare cases is the mutation useful to the organism. Using diluted herbicides would be a more efficient method of causing a mutation.

Side note. Smiling I thought Loch Ness Monster would make a great name for a plant. I went directly to the data base. One daylily! And one Hosta with a corrupted spelling (Lochness). I think a really dark bloom on a water iris would work better. Or purple or maroon foliage in a water plant.
Donald
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Dec 15, 2014 7:25 AM CST
Since microwaves are used by thousands of people almost almost everyday, and since the Loch Ness Monster isn't seen by thousands of people everyday and poses no real concern to people, that comparison is not even relevant. Making light of someone's concerns is not helpful.

As far as microwaves being safe, that is a decision that everyone makes for themselves when they choose to use one. So is being injected with vaccines. At one time everyone was dead certain the Earth was flat too. Remember asbestos siding?, Well, that was THE thing to have! How many people depend on the FDA every time they swallow a pill? Yeah, I trust those folks without blinking an eye... Now there is research going on to see if cell phones cause tumors or infertility, ect.

Suppose some dude discovered microwaves were not as safe as everyone has been led to believe. Does anyone really think that kind of information is going to be on your nightly news? I'm pretty sure there would be a big pay off somewhere, or maybe an unfortunate accident. The entire food industry is completely dependent on microwaves and it would be a disaster to allow people to think they are unsafe. Anyone who expresses concerns is squelched immediately and labeled as a wack-o.


Donald, I agree that someone should name a water plant after the famed Monster... It would sell just for the name!
Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator Plant Identifier Region: Nebraska Forum moderator
Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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KentPfeiffer
Dec 15, 2014 8:10 AM CST

Plants Admin

Exposure to microwaves is, in fact, quite dangerous. That's why microwave ovens are tested for leakage. My point remains, even if you believe the government or whoever is wrong about microwaves escaping from the ovens, the LAST thing you ought to be worried about is the effect they might have on some seeds. Seeds are far more resistant to radiation, not to mention far less important, than you are.

The Loch Ness Monster thing was merely a commentary on the utility of google searches. You can google "evidence" of anything including, to use the above examples, that the Earth really is flat and asbestos is perfectly safe. 'Google says' isn't a persuasive way to start an argument.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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RickCorey
Dec 16, 2014 4:11 PM CST
To affect DNA inside a seed, or other plant tissues, the type of radiation would need to be "energetic" enough for single photons to actually break chemical bonds in the DNA.

Energetic radiation has shorter wavelengths than less energetic radiation.
Here are the kinds of radiation, listed In decreasing order of energy:
X-rays & gamma
UV
visible light
Infrared
microwave & HF & VHF & UHF
radio waves

You can observe the effect of sunlight on plastic: the UV in sunlight breaks down the chemical structure of the plastic, over years of exposure.

If you screen all the UV out of sunlight, it doesn't break down the plastic.
Visible light doesn't have enough energy per photon to break chemical bonds in plastic.

X-rays and gamma radiation can affect DNA and cause mutations.

Very short wavelength UV could do that, if you could focus enough short UV to penetrate the seed coats. In fact, enough short-wavelength UV can sterilize bacteria. As with X-rays, it would be tricky to find just the right the amount of radiation (dose) that would cause a measurable number of mutations vs. causing death.

Regular UV might have some genetic effect, especially if you don't insist it be a measurable effect or detectable by conventional science. But I don't think enough UV could get through a seed coat to affect the genes, without cooking the seeds from heat.

Visible light doesn't cause mutations because, even if you focused huge amounts of light on a seed, and managed to penetrate the seed coat without cooking it thermally, photons of visible light don't have enough energy to break chemical bonds.

Infrared (IR) has even less energy than visible light (per photon), and can't cause mutations.
IR can heat things up but not change their chemistry (until they scorch and burn).

Microwaves have even less energy than IR, and can't cause mutations.

TV and radio waves don't cause mutations.

From visible light on down, they can cause heat but not chemical changes.




[Last edited by RickCorey - Dec 16, 2014 6:03 PM (+)]
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