RealNews

Bugs, weeds, houseplants could join the war on terror

When June Medford came up with the idea to use tiny weeds as weapons in the war against terrorism, she figured most people would call it a joke. But the federal government didn’t laugh. Now, armed with a half million-dollar grant from the Pentagon, the plant biologist at Colorado State University is trying to genetically engineer Arabidopsis plants to change color rapidly if they sense a biological or chemical agent. If her plan worked, the technology could be used to turn forest evergreens, backyard shrubs or even pond algae into sentinels for scientists. One day, everyone in America might be able to use a cheap houseplant as an early-warning system. It could be the proverbial canary in a coal mine for the post-Sept. 11 age. ”A lot of us started thinking differently after 9/11,” Medford says. When she ran the idea by government officials, ”they said, ‘Well, let’s give it a try because if it does work, it could make a huge difference.’ ” Full Story

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