For all the ethical doubts, Pilcher is for the most part upbeat and pro-science. She is excited by “pharming”, whereby GM bacteria, or goats or chickens, are used to make insulin, or anticoagulants, or enzymes — the latter in their milk and eggs. She is wry but enthusiastic about “atomic gardening”, the postwar scheme to deliberately trigger genetic mutations. Seeds were planted in huge circles around a source of gamma radiation — such as Cobalt-60, a product of nuclear reactors — and the seedlings with the most promising genetic mutations were selected and bred. You can find the results today in everything from soy sauce to sunflower oil, not to mention in your toothpaste and your beer, courtesy of the mint cultivar Todd’s Mitcham and the Golden Promise variety of barley.