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Biotech Science

Genetically Modified Flower Detects Landmines 518

Posted by michael
from the don't-step-on-the-red-ones dept.
cdneng2 writes "Yahoo has the story that a Danish company has developed a plant that can detect landmines. The genetically modified weed that has been coded to change color when its roots come in contact with nitrogen-dioxide (NO2) evaporating from explosives buried in soil." The company website has a bit more information.
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Genetically Modified Flower Detects Landmines

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  • by City_Idiot (715795) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @04:57PM (#8104020)
    When the kids of 3 world countries run out into the fields to pick the flowers??
  • Yes, but... (Score:5, Funny)

    by dustmote (572761) <fleck55&hotmail,com> on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @04:57PM (#8104022) Homepage Journal
    Who's going to volunteer to plant them? BOOOM!!! Still, this is a pretty neat idea. Might not be so good for people who are color-blind, like my dad. :)
    • by mlush (620447)
      Who's going to volunteer to plant them? BOOOM!!!

      somehow I think landmines will not blow up if a small weed seed falls on them

    • No sacrificial gardeners needed.
    • Then watch them bloom.
    • by synth7 (311220) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:11PM (#8104241) Homepage
      Who's going to volunteer to plant them?

      Ah, yes... the brainpower of geekus maximus shows that it needs to get out of the house a little more often. You see, plants produce these little things called "seeds" which are actually baby plants in hibernation. These "seeds" typically germinate when sitting in suitable soil... it all depends upon the plant itself, of course: a scrub grass or low-lying shrub will grow in pretty harsh places.

      Anyhow, I hope you can see where this is leading. Plants tend to reproduce on their own without the need for human intervention. Of course, if you really wanted these plants to grow in a location, you could always try something innovative like flying overhead and sprinkling a mixtures of seed and fertilizer on the patch of land in question. It may take several years for the plant to get established and spread, but, well, I don't think anyone would complain about turning this particular patch of land over to these weeds for a time, as it's a bit tricky to use it for anything with all those mines in it anyhow.

      Honestly, at least half a dozen people have posted "How are they going to plant it?!?" without ever bothering to stop and think for a second. What is this, Fark.com?
    • As of 23 October 2003 the 1997 treaty banning the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of antipersonnel landmines has been ratified or acceded to by 141 countries which are States Parties. Another 9 countries have signed but have not yet completed their ratification process, bringing the total number of countries supporting the treaty to 150. 44 Countries have not yet joined the treaty.

      1997 Mine Ban Treaty - NON SIGNATORIES

      This is the list of the 44 countries that have not signed the 1997 Mine Ban

      • Can't speak for the other countries on the list, but I can tell you why the U.S. didn't sign on.

        America offered to sign this treaty. We liked this treaty. Landmines make no distinction between civilian and military personnel. They maim and kill civilians. However, the U.S. made it clear that the use of landmines within designated demilitarized zones was within the rules of war. And within what the United States considered "fair play".

        There had never been a coherent case why landmines can't be u

  • by The I Shing (700142) * on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @04:57PM (#8104026) Journal
    I wish Diana Spencer were alive to see this development. I bet she would have gotten other celebrities to underwrite the use of this technology to save countless lives worldwide. But luckily there are other wealthy individuals who might undertake an experiment with this plant, and make that company rich in the process (which is, in the words of Stuart Smalley, "okay").

    Elton John will write a song about it, too.

    Nice to see a company making a bio weapon that helps people instead of making them die horribly and slowly.
  • KEEP MOVING!!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by docbrown42 (535974) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @04:58PM (#8104031) Homepage
    Stop to smell the roses, and go BOOM? :) Actually, this is a pretty smart idea. Maybe they should code it into something really fast growing, like kudzu. -Ed
    • Re:KEEP MOVING!!! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Carnildo (712617) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:17PM (#8104339) Homepage Journal
      I think a field full of kudzu is worse than a field full of land mines. After all, you can continue to farm a field of land mines, if you're willing to risk getting blown up. If the field's full of kudzu, you can't farm it any more.
    • by lcsjk (143581)
      It's probably safer to take a chance on land mines than to be swallowed up by Kudzu while you're asleep. ... Look out on the sides of the roads in parts of Alabama and Georgia and you'll see the humps/bumps where cows and cars have paused too long and succumbed to the onslaught of fast growing Kudzu. ..... On the other hand, if you could genetically engineer Kudzu to die unless it encountered a land mine, it could turn red and within a few hours, assuming normal growth rate, protect the mine from intrusion
    • Re:KEEP MOVING!!! (Score:3, Informative)

      by Zathrus (232140)
      Obligatory kudzu joke:

      A man in Texas decided he wanted a nice gazebo in his backyard and wanted some nice ivy growing over it. He didn't want to wait a decade or so for the ivy to grow around the gazebo. He'd heard that kudzu was pretty fast growing though and so he planted some near the base of the gazebo.

      A year later he burned the thing to the ground, poured concrete over it, and sold the place. The kudzu probably came back.

      Serious notes -- planting kudzu anywhere in the US is a federal crime, a violat
  • chrysanthemum in there somewhere. You know like the firework explosion?
  • by Kaeru the Frog (152611) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @04:59PM (#8104050)
    Shouldn't the gardeners blowing up while planting flowers be enough?
  • Someone's going to be pushing up the daisies!
  • GM is good (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pbrinich (238041) *
    Well, this might be one use of GM where the environmentalists can't complain much with all the children maimed and killed by these things each year...
    • Well, this might be one use of GM where the environmentalists can't complain much with all the children maimed and killed by these things each year...

      Hrmph. Don't you believe it. There are people out there who would, in the words of my father, "bitch if you hung 'em with a new rope."
  • detect the slashdotting that about to occur :)
  • by c_oflynn (649487) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @04:59PM (#8104060)
    I can just see a field of flowers all one colour.

    Then there is one flower that is a different colour, and you think its so unique. You go over to take a look at it...
  • On the topic of DNA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by $calar (590356) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @04:59PM (#8104062) Journal
    One of my professors does research in nanotechnology. He is currently growing nanotubes in his lab and one of the applications of this technology is as a detector, such as what this plant does, only at the nano-scale. Apparently when the technology matures, detectors of certain types of illnesses can be made. By a drop of blood on the detector, one can learn the results instantly instead of waiting for human analysis. Very cool.
  • by bdesham (533897) <bdeshamNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @04:59PM (#8104065) Journal
    "Flower-Power Could Help Clear Land mines"
    Good, this sounds like a great excuse to blow up as many of these [deskpicture.com] as we possibly can.

    :-)
  • Use something like a crop duster at a highish altitude to drop the seeds all over large areas of land in third world countries. This will make demining so much easier.

    If the environmentalists oppose this, if they can engineer the seeds so that the plants can't have offspring (I forget what the term is), they could drop a ton of seeds over a tract of land they plan to demine, and a few months later finding the mines will be very easy.

  • Big deal (Score:5, Funny)

    by overshoot (39700) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:01PM (#8104083)
    The grass in my back yard turns green around land mines already.

    OK, seriously, this is great. Too many kids are missing body parts from old munitions.

  • Good Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grey_14 (570901) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:01PM (#8104093) Homepage
    This is the kinda thing Genetic Engineering and Modification should be going into, not for Cheaper prices in the supermarket, or Glowing fish,
    Lets see more food in starving country's, Less Landmines, and other ways to improve life,

    Of course, thats whats been said about just about any new or improved technology in the last what, 30 years?
    • Re:Good Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by donutello (88309) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:22PM (#8104417) Homepage
      Cheaper prices in the supermarket are usually the result of greater production and lower cost to produce so the same stuff that brings you cheaper prices in the supermarket is what you need to have more food in starving countries.

      GM is a tool. Like almost any other tool you can use it for good, evil or something frivolous.

      What next? You want legislation saying that computers should only be used to educate low-income students and not for playing games?
  • And... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mewyn (663989)
    Despite the fact that this flower may save hundreds of lives and thousands of injuries, anti-genetic research people are bound to delay this from being deploied.
    I do think that it will need to be tested to make sure it causes no harm, but it is going to be a great help in some war-torn countries.

    Mewyn Dy'ner
  • by Sheetrock (152993) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:02PM (#8104104) Homepage Journal
    Glowing fish are neat, but this is the type of breakthrough that should convince holdout countries that genetically modified plants are a good thing. Granted, whatever this plant is it isn't likely it'll grow everywhere, but this is so innovative that I wonder if it can be applied to the detection of other materials in the soil.

    It's even self-limiting, so despite being a weed it won't choke out the local flora.

  • by addie (470476) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:02PM (#8104105)
    Flower power!
  • Wouldn't it be more efficient to just get a cache of mad cows and send them into the mine fields, like in this game [cheapass.com]?

    (Note, I don't work for Cheapass Games.)

  • Phase 2 (Score:5, Funny)

    by John Jorsett (171560) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:02PM (#8104123)
    Develop the next generation flower that detonates itself, taking out the mine, instead of just turning a different color. You'd probably risk being gunned down by airport security for carrying flowers, but progress comes at a price ...
  • The hard part is tilling and planting the mine field first!

  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:04PM (#8104153)
    Many fertilisers are made from various nitrogen compounds that are similar to explosives. That is why you can make a pretty nice bang with fertiliser + diesel fuel, and why there is a nice little relationship between fertiliser and explosives factories.

    Sure, out in the African bush you would not expect to find fertilisers but I extect some of the mine hot zones in Asia are fertilised quite heavily.

    • Most fertilizer is some kind of nitrate (NO3)... ammonium nitrate, etc. High explosives, such as the type commonly used in munitions, are actually N02 compounds, rather than simple nitrates. The nitrates/nitrites are often used in explosives as the oxidizing agent, sometimes in an internal REDOX reaction, sometime to oxidize an additional reagent. As a fertilizer bomb example, the explosive used in the OK city bombing was basically ANFO (acronym for Ammonium Nitrate and Fuel Oil). It's an explosive agen
  • Congratulations! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Erick the Red (684990) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:04PM (#8104155)

    Landmines are a HUGE problem in so many countries. Engineers Without Borders has a yearly competition for de-mining technology. These plants could make the new devices obsolete.

    One quick question: what about minefields in the desert? Plenty of places have mines where plants don't usually grow (or at least not densely enough for the plants to detect them all).
  • by AtariAmarok (451306) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:04PM (#8104156)
    Now, crossbreed them with those heatbeam-shooting Ringworld sunflowers, and you've got something that detects mines, and then blows them up.

    Now, how do you get rid of the fields of killer sunflowers covering the landscape? Errmm. sorry, didn't hear that. Gotta go...
    • The Ringworld flowers are mirrored, they don't shoot heatbeams, they merely reflect the sun, IIRC. Oh, and one other thing... THEY DON'T REALLY EXIST! Oh, and if a mine is buried deep enough, heat-beaming it probably won't detonate it.
  • by KingJoshi (615691) <slashdot@joshi.tk> on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:05PM (#8104170) Homepage
    This is ground-breaking technology and it's really cool to see it work to say lives. But I wonder what unintended consequences may occur from planting weeds around. This is very ignorant of me, but what effects could they have if they spread too fast or whatever since some areas where there are landmines are actually agricultural. I guess this technology could be used on other types of plants too, right?
    • They do say the plants are modified to be genetically infertile and unable to spread their own seeds.

      As always there is no guarantee and as we all have heard, plants and especially hardy ones like weeds can cross-pollinate with similar breeds.

      it sounds like they are making this issue a big concern however.

  • by Mieckowski (741243) <mieckowski@@@berkeley...edu> on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:06PM (#8104178)
    All you have to do is look at the numbers in the adjacent boxes.

    People are so lazy!
  • Princess Diana (Score:3, Interesting)

    by savagedome (742194) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:06PM (#8104182)
    Princess Diana, for one, would have been very happy to see this development. Although her calling a ban on international landmines sparked a row [bbc.co.uk] as it was out of sync with the government policy.

    Definitely one of the better use of genetics.
  • They should make a condom that contains plant material that can detect STD's and change colors accourdingly.
  • It won't work (Score:2, Insightful)

    by psb777 (224219)
    Landmines are fairly small devices so a high plant density would be required. Much land is not easily planted - esp by airplane. It will have to be a remarkable plant to grow in all the conditions it will be needed. They would need one variety for paddy fields, another for savanna, etc etc. To have a chance of getting growing plants in sufficient density you would have to plough the land first.
  • by AtariAmarok (451306) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:07PM (#8104203)
    Sorry, I thought this was about flowers detecting mimes. I was so looking forward to using this during my next trip to New York City. My mistake.
  • poetic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by theCat (36907) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:08PM (#8104212) Journal
    There is something marvelously just and poetic about using flowers to detect land mines. Thousands of children and innocents a year are blown to giblets, or horribly hutilated, by land mines. May a thousand flowers bloom.
  • by foxtrot (14140) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:09PM (#8104226)
    ...I've just been using my binoculars.

    "Landmine spotted, check your command map."

    I didn't even notice a "gardner" class in the limbo screen...

    -JDF
  • some gentically modified weed to fool drug testing. This would be a real befefit to mankind.
  • Get ready for these things to be banned because of fears that they'll find there way into salads.
  • by djmurdoch (306849) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:32PM (#8104526)
    The article states

    The use of land mines was outlawed in the 1997 Ottawa Convention and more than 90 countries committed themselves last year to cleaning up the debris of war to reduce the number of civilian casualties from munitions left by armed conflicts.

    However, the USA was not a signatory to this treaty as of 2002, according to this web page [icbl.org]. Apparently there were plans to sign in 2006, but the landmine-lovers were working to change those. Has anything changed?

    There aren't many other countries that were both democratic and non-signatories: Finland, India, Israel, Korea, Russia, Turkey (but the democracy of some of those might be questionable). The entire "Axis of Evil" made the list, though.
    • by Zathrus (232140) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @06:31PM (#8105286) Homepage
      The US military has an issue with getting rid of landmines. North Korea. The entire defense of South Korea weighs heavily on the use of landmines (both anti-personnel and anti-tank).

      The US does, however, clean up areas that it's mined once it's done with them. I doubt it's a perfect job, but it's considerably better than the vast number of military forces that use mines and don't clean them up (which is where the issue has come from).

      If anyone can suggest an equally effective deterrent to invasion that requires an equal amount of manpower, I'm sure the US Army would like to hear about it.

      It's not an issue of "landmine lovers", it's an issue of doing protection in an effective manner. (Which, BTW, is the condition on signing in 2006... AFAIK, nobody has stepped up to the plate). I haven't found any reports of the US using landmines anywhere else -- including Iraq -- since 1997 (the mines at Guantanamo were removed in 1999). They did stockpile them, but they apparantly weren't used. The US has not sold landmines internationally since 1993.

      BTW, you missed Pakistan, Georgia, Belarus, Egypt, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Mongolia (parliamentary - very much questionable), Morocco (constitutional monarchy; similar to the UK's), Nepal, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Tuvalu. All have some form of representive government along the lines of a republic or democracy (no, the US is not a democracy -- it's a republic). Between those and the ones you listed, it's about a third of the list. Admittedly, some of the countries on the (full) list probably just haven't bothered -- particularly Tuvalu and Tonga.
  • by slstickle (174476) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:36PM (#8104569)
    Will these flowers be genetically engineered to have numbers on them, indicating how many mines are growing in the plots next to them?
  • by InsaneCreator (209742) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @07:01PM (#8105633)
    Small print: you need to plow the minefield first.
  • Good, good, good!!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by ElGanzoLoco (642888) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @07:31PM (#8106004) Homepage
    My family lives in Cambodia (both NGO workers), one of the most mined countries on earth.

    Kids still die everyday because they step on landmines. There are anti tank mines, that will kill you, antipersonal mines, that will cripple you, and UXO (unexploded ordnance) that can do about anything.

    You go to the market in certain places in Cambodia, and you see that almost 10% (no kidding) of the population is crippled, one or both legs missing, sometimes an arm... Shit.

    Worse: Cambodia has huge monsoon rains, and the floods eventually transform into torrents. So the mines MOVE with time. So there you are, happily walking on a path that has been un-mined last year, and BOOM, the rain had brought a mine right there. Scary.

    Even worse. Sometimes UXO (more rarely, mines) go right into the city, because of some construction site that uses sand dug from out of the city, and that has UXO's inside (rare, but it happened to one of our friends doing construction for his NGO).

    Anything that can be used in demining should be. You might think that demining mostly occurs in rice fields and stuff but no, in some remote places over there, they have to clear villages *house by house*, garden by garden. There are still millions (litteraly) of landdmines scattered everywhere, and even though the foreign demining teams, and the Cambodians they have trained, do a great job, it never will be enough.

    Still, Cambodia is one of the most beautiful countries on earth. [slashdot.org] Now, most touristic-and-not-so-touristic places are safe, so go there, but stay away from anywhere the locals tell you to NOT go.

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