Irradiated Wheat: The’Bugs’Are Only in Your Cells

Prevention Magazine, June 1975

Malnourished children eating irradiated wheat developed cell abnormalities associated with malignancy, two investigators at India’s National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad have reported. Irradiation is being explored as a possible control for insect infestation in grains. But four out of five youngsters receiving freshly irradiated wheat developed polyploid cells (abnormal cells with extra sets of chromosomes) after four weeks, according to Prof. G. Sadasivian and C. Bhaskaram, MD. These and other cell abnormalities persisted for 16 to 20 weeks after the irradiated wheat was withdrawn from the diet. Children who ate wheat that had been irradiated and then stored 12 weeks before consumption displayed cell abnormalities also, but considerably less than the first group. “In marked contrast, not a single polyploid cell or any other type of abnormal cell was found in any of the children who received unirradiated wheat,” the pair reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (February, 1975).

In the US, irradiation of wheat and potatoes for human consumption has been approved by the FDA, but the process has yet to be adopted to any extent commercially. So-called irradiated milk is in a different category; the “irradiation” merely refers to the milk’s exposure to ultraviolet light, not radioactive cobalt.