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S. Korea completes first laboratory for crop seed mutation breeding

South Korea has completed the construction of its first laboratory for the start of crop seed mutation breeding, the government said Monday.

Mutation breeding is the process of exposing seeds to radiation to create mutants with desirable traits, and is therefore fundamentally different from breeding genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

The technology is also considered much safer than GMOs, as it leaves no trace of radiation, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

The new mutation breeding research center was completed after the start of its construction in 2010, costing 13.2 billion won (US$12.4 million). It is located at the Advanced Radiation Technology Institute in Jeongeup, located some 260 kilometers southwest of Seoul in North Jeolla Province.

South Korea is currently ranked 25th in the world in terms of the number of mutagenic plants it has developed, the ministry said in a press release. Mutagenic plants refer to plants created by radiation-induced mutation.

However, the area used for the cultivation of mutagenic plants currently accounts for only 0.5 percent of the country's total arable land, compared with China's 20 percent and Japan's 10 percent.

With the construction of the mutation research center, the country seeks to increase the number of its own mutagenic plants in order to become the world's fifth largest developer by 2020, which in turn will also help boost the country's shipments of seeds to $200 million, the ministry said.

SEJONG, Nov. 18 (Yonhap)

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