Wednesday, May 17, 2006

We Are the Bomb Sniffing World

My baby sister's husband returns this Friday from K-9 Cop training in Texas. He had to leave my sis, pregnant, for 10 weeks to be with the dog he'd been introduced to. In Texas. Who knew? Anyway, this story caught my eye over at Metafilter.

Landmine victims in Angola play soccer. Photo: Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation

From The Human Flower Project in Austin, Texas:

Danish, Canadian and U.S. scientists are closing in on a genetically engineered plant that will send up a floral signal: “DANGER—land mines below."

Weeds and humans to the rescue! Scientists in Denmark have been tinkering with Arabidopsis thaliana (the homely Thale cress) trying to produce a plant whose flowers will change color in the presence of landmines.

While superpowers harangue over nuclear-weapons programs, combatants in poor nations build and bury land mines. After the breakup of Yugoslavia, Bosnia/Herzegovina planted six million landmines and Croatia, three million. According to The Hindu Times, nearly every family in Cambodia has a relative who has died or lost a limb to these weapons. In Angola, between 70,000 and 100,000 people have been victims of land mines.

After the truces are signed, these bombs (easy and cheap to build) go on maiming people, usually children and farmers.

“Within three to six weeks from being sowed over land mine infested areas the small plant...will turn a warning red whenever close to a land mine.” Arabidopsis can be genetically sensitized to the nitrogen-dioxide (NO2) that leaches from buried explosives.

Ai yai yai. How do you let the good in from a story like this? You know it's there, but...

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