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Genetically Modified Plant Detects Land Mines

More than 100 million land mines have been spread out in 45 countries, hidden killers that often remain for years after a war is over. The use of land mines was outlawed in the 1997 Ottawa Convention and more than 90 countries committed themselves last year to cleaning up the debris of war to reduce the number of civilian casualties from munitions left by armed conflicts.

Shortly there will be a genetically modified flower that could help detect land mines. The genetically modified weed has been coded to change color when its roots come in contact with nitrogen-dioxide (NO2) evaporating from explosives buried in soil. This will take advantage of the plant's normal reaction to turn red or brown when subjected to stressful conditions such as cold or drought. The new weed has been genetically coded so it reacts only to nitrogen-dioxide. Within three to six weeks from being sowed over land mine infested areas the small weed, a Thale Cress, will turn a warning red whenever close to a land mine. While this application of GMO plants seems promising, there is always the risk that the mutant plants will contaminate wild species. There is less of a risk with this venture though as the modified weed was infertile and unable to spread its seeds, meaning the risk was minimal that the plant would spread into unwanted areas.

Yahoo! News January 28, 2004

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