Friday, August 10, 2007

thales cress: land mine detection

A weed that turns red when it grows near land mines could help clear dangerous fields in war torn countries like Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Genetically modified by Danish biotechnology company Aresa Biodetection, Thales cress is made ultra sensitive to nitrogen dioxide, a byproduct of mines. The plant changes color from green to red when the gas is present in soil.
Currently, mines can be detected only by human or canines. Scientists hope the plant will show where the land mines are so they can be removed safely, greatly reducing fatalities and serious injuries.

110 million land mines are hidden in 45 countries. Many of them have been buried for years. It would cost $33 billion to remove them and take 1,100 years under present demining rates, according to the United Nations. Approx. 10,00 are removed each year at a price of $200 to $300 million. The Red Cross estimates that 26,000 people are killed or injured each year by leftover mines. 40 percent of all land in Cambodia and 90 percent in Angola, go unused because of land mines. Political will, economic will, and technological will are all necessary also to put bans on land mines.

Thales cress can offer an easier and safer method of detection. Its seeds can be sprayed over fields from planes or via spray guns at low cost. The growth and reddening takes six weeks. The plant is self-pollinating. Researchers also removed the gene for an important growth hormone, which eliminates the risk of spreading pollen to unmodified plants because the new weed neither germinates nor sets seeds unless a specific fertilizer is used. Although it is do you feel about this? Please comment.

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