Genetic Modification and The Environment

Although the field of genetic modification and biotechnology in general may have gotten some bad press lately, it should not be reason enough to abandon the research and technology already done altogether.

Most people may not yet be able to see just how important the field of biotechnology would be in the future, but someday time would come that people will eventually understand its importance and how its further development would be able to help ease and improve human lives.

Among the many areas where genetic modification and biotechnology would be able to help is on improving the environment. True, it might just be too early to tell if such studies would eventually become effective. But there is reason enough to believe that biotechnology can be used to help salvage (if some people see it already as a hopeless endeavor) the environment. Take for example this recent news about a genetically engineered plant that may be able to clean up some of the pollutants in the soil.

The tobacco plant may be seen by most people (just like genetic modification nowadays) as bad for humans in general. But there is a new study recently reported that will eventually make some people change the minds when it comes to the usefulness this popular and at times controversial plant. With the help of genetic engineering, the tobacco plant can be used to clean up lands that have been contaminated by trinitrotoluene, more commonly known as TNT.

According to an article in the Science Daily website (, there is a big possibility that a genetically engineered tobacco plant may be able to get rid of TNT that has contaminated quite a number of lands since two World Wars.

TNT is a widely used explosive that the military uses in large amounts. Considering that it has been widely used for a long time, military areas such as explosive testing sites, manufacturing plants as well as World War II sites may already be contaminated with TNT and may pose as a grave health concern for people who find themselves living near these areas.

It has also been known that there are some types of soil bacteria that can metabolize and convert TNT into a non-toxic substance. But the levels of this type of soil bacteria may not be enough to help get rid of the TNT that has contaminated large areas of lands. That is why a team of researchers has though up of a way of genetically inserting the bacterial gene that helps in metabolizing the TNT into a tobacco plant.

In the said study, the transgenic tobacco plants were then planted into a TNT contaminated site along with another area where ordinary tobacco plants were planted in order to study comparisons and results. What came out is that the contaminated area planted with the transgenic tobacco plant has significantly reduced the toxicity of TNT in the soil.

This study has shown that it is possible for transgenic plants to be developed in order to help get rid of contaminants in the soil such as TNT. In the future, such plants may be genetically modified in order to clean up a host of other contaminants in the soil and eventually help clean up the environment. Such studies just show how helpful the field of genetic engineering would be for human today and in the near future.

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