Wetenschap - 24 juni 2016

Mars vegetables are almost certainly safe

tekst:
Roelof Kleis

The vegetables which Mars gardener Wieger Wamelink cultivates is almost certainly edible. The first analysis show low heavy metal levels.

Wamelink has been cultivating vegetables on Mars and moon soil simulant for several years now. This is soil which the NASA supplies and which has a similar composition to that of Mars and the moon. Wamelink proved that it works. Diverse types of vegetables were grown and harvested. But whether it is safe to eat, was not certain up until now.

Metals

Wamelink tested four vegetables (radish, pea, rye, and tomato) on the presence of ten heavy metals. Especially metals such as lead, cadmium and copper are present in the similar amounts in the soil of Mars and the moon compared to the simulant soil of NASA. According to the Wageningen ecologist the analysis looks good. 

According to Wamelink the radish contained the highest levels of heavy metals. ‘But the contents are low across the whole sample. They fall within the limits which the NVWA (Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority) and the American counterpart, the FDA place. In some cases the levels in the control samples – of the Dutch soil – were even higher. This already gives enough indication about the safety. But Wamelink is not one hundred percent certain yet.

The tomatoes stand two meters tall and even grow beyond the lamps.
Wieger Wamelink

This is because the measuring methods used do not comply with the regulations. Wamelink: ‘We performed the determinations ourselves with dried material. The NVWA works according to protocol with fresh material.’ At this moment harvest is taking place of new and a larger established cultivation experiment with ten vegetables.’ These products will be tested according to regulations. They will not only be tested on heavy metals, but also on vitamins, flavonoids, and the often toxic alkaloids.

Financing

Wamelink is trying to raise money for this through crowdfunding. Form the needed 25.000 euro almost half has now been raised.  If we are given green light, an ‘alien’ dinner will be made for the sponsors based on the cultivated beans, garden cress, potatoes, tomatoes etc. According to Wamelink the vegetables are growing ‘exceptionally well’. ‘We have already harvested two kilo of beans. The tomatoes stand two meters tall and even grow beyond the lamps.’

The scoop for the first Mars food will take place next Friday. Together with the presenter of the children’s programme ZAPP (NPO) Wamelink will prepare the first Mars radishes.


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