Military preparedness means testing ammunition in controlled field trials, as well as decommissioning obsolete weaponry. The result is a significant environmental deposit of TNT and RDX residues, two explosives used in the production of military hardware. These compounds remain in the soil and leach into groundwater. They represent significant environmental toxins near military bases.
Biologist Liz Rylott and her team at the University of York have engineered plants capable of inactivating these compounds. Thanks to genes from unusual bacterial species, the plants take up these compounds and turn them essentially into fertilizer. This work, Folta says, is an exciting example of how genetic engineering can be used to solve a critical environmental problem.
Follow Dr. Rylott on Twitter @LizRylott
Talking Biotech podcast, produced by Kevin Folta, available for listening or subscription: