A paper published in the international journal Environmental Chemistry Letters has proposed an innovative use for recycled greenhouse gases that could make food safer and assist in tackling global warming.

Biochemist Christopher P. Williams has calculated that radioactive carbon-14, or radiocarbon, naturally found in the atmosphere and in all food, causes at least 34bn DNA and chromosomal damage events during an ordinary human lifetime, accounting for a significant number of spontaneous cancers or birth defects, as well as accelerating the ageing process.

However, unlike carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, CO2 captured directly from most fossil fuel emissions contains little or no radiocarbon. Williams suggests this low radiocarbon CO2 could be recycled to grow food which would contain little or no radiocarbon.

Adults, whose DNA and other genetic material are already formed, would likely receive little benefit from such low radiocarbon food but, Williams posits, growing children receiving this safer, less radioactive food could be spared billions of lifetime genetic damage events.

As one of the proposed solutions for tackling global warming is to capture carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, the paper suggests that this waste material could be used in the production of low radiocarbon food products.

John A. Jaszczak, Professor of Physics at Michigan Technological University, said: “I found the idea of conserving the low radiocarbon CO2 emissions for plant growth and human food consumption, especially for prenatal and newborn babies, to be an exciting one. I hope it will catch the attention of funding agencies and inspire long-overdue experimental research. The potential positive ramifications for both human well-being and the environment are too significant to ignore.”

Williams recently left the genetic screening industry to form a company called Radiocarb Genetics which will develop and promote patented technology for the production of low radiocarbon food products.