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Transgenic Mustard Cleans Soil

Researchers have completed the first field trials of a transgenic Indian mustard designed to pull selenium contamination from soil. Extra genes were added to produce plants rich in enzymes that cause the roots to take up selenium. Three strains of mustard, each producing a different enzyme, and a wild strain were compared in the field test. The altered strains took up more than four times the amount of the contaminant from the soil.

Clean up of soil contamination is a costly problem. Some plants, such as the Indian mustard, absorb contaminants and concentrate them in their upper parts, making removal of the pollutants easier. This process is known as phytoremediation.

To insure that the genes did not transfer to other food crops the test plants were removed before flowering. The field test is a promising beginning. Researchers hope to continue to increase the selenium absorption potential of the Indian mustard and to create plants that do not contain the transgenes in their pollen.

Link: Transgenic plants remove more selenium from contaminated soil than wild-type plants, new field tests show a UC Berkeley News Release

Posted by Eric La Fountaine at 4:33 PM on February 23, 2005