Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Trees with rabbit genes accelerate cleaning of soil

GM poplars break down pollutants 100 times faster
· Scientists acknowledge environmental concerns

From the Guardian:

Genetically modified plants that can break down pollutants may be an effective way to clean soil contaminated by industrial chemicals and explosives used by the military, according to scientists.

Tests on six-inch tall GM poplar cuttings which had a gene from a rabbit inserted into them showed that they could remove up to 91% of a chemical called trichloroethylene from the water used in their feed. This chemical, used as an industrial degreaser and one of the most common contaminants of ground water, was broken down by the plants into harmless byproducts more than 100 times faster than by unaltered plants.

"In view of their large size and extensive root systems, these transgenic poplars may provide the means to effectively clean sites contaminated with a variety of pollutants at much faster rates and at lower costs than can be achieved with current conventional techniques," wrote Sharon Doty, of the University of Washington, Seattle, yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)....MORE