A weed that turns red when it grows near land mines could help clear dangerous fields in war-torn countries such as Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The genetically modified Thales cress is sensitive to nitrogen dioxide, a byproduct of mines, and changes from green to red when the gas is present in soil. Currently, mines can be detected only by human or canine probing. Scientists hope the plant will show where the land mines are so they can be removed safely, greatly reducing fatalities and injuries among those who hunt for mines and the unsuspecting public. Lab results so far look promising, says Simon Oestergaard, chief executive of Aresa. He envisions that the plant will be used mostly to clear fields suitable for farming. “The main target of this product is soil that will be used for different agricultural activities,” he says.
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