COLLEGE STATION — The National Center for Electron Beam Research, part of Texas AgriLife Research of The Texas A&M University System, has received a certificate of approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service.
The electron-beam facility and associated equipment was examined and found acceptable for use in the treatment of agricultural items regulated under the provisions of quarantines and regulations administered by the federal agency, said center administrators.
“This is a major milestone which can enhance the export competitiveness of the state of Texas and the United States,” said center director Dr. Suresh Pillai.
“Among other things, this will enable the export of agricultural commodities such as peaches and blueberries, as well as promote interstate movement of agricultural products that could be subject to quarantines.”
The center is only the second electron-beam facility in the continental U.S. approved by the agency for phytosanitary treatment, providing protection against invading insects and pests, he said. This certification allows the facility, located in College Station at
Texas A&M, to accept agricultural commodities from around the U.S. and to apply specific electron-beam doses so that these commodities may be exported to other countries.
“Having this capability in Texas can be a boon to agricultural exporters from states such as Georgia, South Carolina and Florida,” Pillai said. “USDA-APHIS is currently revising a federal law to allow the use of this technology on imported commodities in the U.S. If this law comes into effect, there will be a significant demand for using this technology on commodities currently being imported from Mexico such as guavas, mangoes, sweet lime, manzano peppers and carambola.”
He said irradiation treatment is the only approved technology for key agricultural commodities such as guavas, sweet lime, and manzano peppers.
“Electron-beam irradiation is a sustainable technology that overcomes the need to use environmentally damaging chemicals such as methyl bromide,” Pillai said. “This technology, which is essentially a switch-on/switch-off technology, does not involve the use of radioactive chemicals.”
He said a possible side benefit of using irradiation technology is that when the agricultural commodities are treated at doses for phytosanitary purposes, their shelf life could also be potentially extended.
Pillai said in addition to phytosanitary applications the use of electron-beam irradiation technology is making significant improvements in the sterilization of medical devices, the microbiological safety of food products, developing new therapeutics and enhancing the quality of polymers.