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Checkbiotech: GM tobacco may help clean TNT, RDX traces
Posted by: DR. RAUPP ; madora (IP Logged)
Date: June 22, 2005 06:44AM ; ;

Latest research says genetically modified tobacco can help clean military
sites polluted with traces of harmful chemicals like RDX and TNT, a task
that otherwise costs hundreds of millions of dollars each year, June 2005.

Researchers led by biologist Neil Bruce at Britain's University of York
have found transgenic tobacco plants capable of treating the explosive
chemical trinitrotoluene or TNT.

According to a report in, tobacco plants used to treat TNT
basically transform the chemical's molecular structure into a non-toxic

The plants can also dissolve cyclotrimethylene trinitramine, known as RDX,
by gradually pulling nitrogen groups, molecular units of nitrogen and
oxygen, from the explosive until it eventually falls apart. The plants then
use the nitrogen groups as food to grow.

Bruce said creating plants that can break down RDX is particularly important
as it can spread through the soil and groundwater quicker than TNT.

He said at the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science
meeting in Washington that genetically modified tobacco plants may prove to
be a cheaper way to clean polluted firing ranges, munitions dumps and even
post war zones.

Bruce's research team transferred genes from toxin-eating bacteria into
tobacco plants.

These genetically modified plants - also called transgenic plants because
they contain genes from two different organisms - grew faster in toxic TNT
and RDX laboratory solutions than normal plants did.

The military uses the explosives to fire shells and bombs. After an
explosion, residual particles scatter the target area. When it rains, they
can seep into the soil and groundwater.

The primary way these sites are cleaned is by calling in backhoes, digging
up the dirt and trucking it off to be burned.

Cleaning up the groundwater requires additional filtration systems. All of
it leaves the military paying hundreds of millions of dollars each year in
clean-up costs, the report said.

"So we're trying to develop methods by which we can remove those explosives
from soil using plants and microorganisms," Bruce said.


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