A new batch of genetically modified plants are poised to cause controversy throughout the environmental community.
A group of University of Washington scientists have created a poplar tree that can rapidly clean contaminated groundwater and soil, by inserting rabbit genes into the plants. The trees removed 91% of the toxic trichloroethylene compound from a liquid solution in the lab where they were grown. Trichlorethylene is the most common ground water contaminant in the US.
A team from the University of York led by researchers Rosamond Jackson and Neil Bruce has also created a soil and water cleansing plant. The group has created a batch of modified Arabidopsis plants that reduced the level of potentially cancerous explosive RDX in water and soil by up to 97%.
Although these are potentially massive advances in soil cleanup science, there are of course worries about GM plants being introduced into the natural ecosystem.
The Washington team has already responded to fears of widespread GM forests. They specifically chose the poplar tree for its ability to grow for years without producing flowers, so that they may be removed before they develop seeds and spread.
Both teams point out that the plants can only be grown for research purposes, per US and UK law. The UW team hopes to experiment further at monitored government cleanup sites.
If you find this information useful and would like to get daily updates, feel free to subscribe to our RSS feed.