Our posts about genetic engineering always accrue some interesting comments, so let’s see what Futurismic readers think of this: researchers at the University of Illinois have engineered a new form of plant that produces more leaves and fruit without any need for fertilizers, by tweaking the enzymes used in the photosynthesis reaction.
Don’t get too panicked, though – the plant only exists in a computer simulation so far. And that’s the interesting question, as far as I can see – will we be more trusting of re-engineered life-forms if they’ve been tested exhaustively in virtual form before being created in the real world? [Link via Our Technological Future] [Image by 4x4jeepchick]
[tags]biology, engineering, photosynthesis, simulation[/tags]
3 thoughts on “Photosynthesis2.0 – leaves re-engineered”
I think that no computer simulation can completely account for the vast number of variables that exist in nature. There is no way to test how an engineered plant will interact with the other life forms in the ecosystem without putting it out there and seeing what happens. There is a very real danger that engineered species, when put in the wild, could cause extinctions or worse. We’ve witnessed what can happen when existing species are moved into other habitats, and it worries me to think of how much stronger this effect could be when genetic engineering is brought into the equation.
Yes, we have to be worried about such problems, but there are lots of safety guidelines already in use by the companies that create new strains of plants.
There’s a test site near where I grew up, and the imposing fence and warning signs created lots of rumors among us kids as to what’s going on, but a friend of mine wound up doing a internship at that research facility and described the large buffer zones of plants that are meant to prevent just such an escape. Companies have an interest in them not getting out, as it could ruin their monopoly over the species and their bottom line.
At least the computer models can help us get closer to a good bet for a successful plant, which will save time and money on potential dead ends.
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