Where Do Your Land Mines Grow?

| March-April 2009

Scientists are using flora to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems: discovering and removing land mines. Danish research company Aresa has developed the BioSenser, a genetically modified tobacco plant that changes from green to red when it contacts nitrogen dioxide leached from underground explosives. The United Nations estimates that more than 110 million active land mines are scattered in 68 countries, many of them leaking harmful chemicals as they decay. Researchers drop seeds from a plane, wait 10 weeks while plants grow, then look for leaves that have changed color. The practice is a welcome alternative to past detection methods, which often involved digging up large plots of land or accidentally stepping on a mine.

Tom Cannon_2
4/21/2009 1:36:53 PM

What a lovely thought; the land around your home or village was mined over a half-forgotten cause or war and now you have no idea where they are, until one of your children or neighbors is killed or maimed. Further, if you're a farmer and half your land is considered dangerous, then you won't be planting on that land. Clearing hidden mines and unmarked minefields can do much for improving the ability of 3rd World societies to support themselves, and that is something we should support.

JWT Meakin
4/20/2009 8:02:55 PM

Well, here's a cheap and chirpy little article. Kudos to the botanists who developed this plant, and may it work well in the field. Land mines are very nasty objects, but as "one of the world's most pressing problems" they hardly rate against overpopulation, deforestation, fishery depletion, wildlife extinction and climate change, now do they? It debases the massive problems facing us all to put land mines in the same category. Even on the balance of short-term misery, compare the deaths from land mines to those caused by drinking contaminated water.

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