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A vegetable traffic light to detect landmines

Claudia Gabarain's picture
Image credit: CPI at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

I thought the most innovative way to detect land mines was, to date,  the use of sniffing rats (light enough not to set off the explosive). But scientists in South Africa (a team set up by the University of Stellenbosch and the Danish biotechnology firm Aresa) are now turning to vegetables.

According to EcoWorldly, they have developed the "Red-Detect" bio-sensor technology in a weed that changes color from green to red when when it detects the nitrogen dioxide that leads from buried mines. The weed, Thales Cress, is too small to be seen from a safe distance, however, so the scientists are now betting on using the tobacco plant instead, which has large leaves and grows easily in most parts of the world.

Field trials are already underway in Serbia, but scientists keep researching the plant's response to drought and extreme temperatures, as well as the risk of environmental contamination coming from this genetically engineered tobacco. In East Asia, projects to clean the land from mines are currently underway in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar (at least).


Submitted by Bob Morris on
We are seeking partners to assist in developing a global on-line database of Improvised Explovise Devices (IEDS). This is to raise awareness of the problem and build momentum to stop these practices. We are extremely interested in working wiWorld Bank and others on this as the prototype, with the help of Google, is currently on-line. There is already a link where additional incidents can be added. FOr further information and to support the project contact us at [email protected]

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