The past few 100 years have seen some of man’s greatest feats in Science and technological breakthrough, from electricity to the internet, from land transport vehicles to space transport vehicles. But, did you ever think the day would come when spinach would begin emailing?
Through the use of nanotechnology, engineers at MIT in the US have genetically modified spinach into sensors capable of detecting explosive materials. These plants are then able to wirelessly relay this information back to the scientists with the help of some infrared detection cameras.
The plants employ a pair of near-infrared ﬂuorescent nanosensors—single-walled carbonnanotubes (SWCNTs) conjugated to the peptide Bombolitin II to recognize nitroaromatics via infrared ﬂuorescent emission,and polyvinyl-alcohol functionalized SWCNTs that act as an invariant reference signal—embedded within the plant leafmesophyll. As contaminant nitroaromatics are transported up the roots and stem into leaf tissues, they accumulate in themesophyll, resulting in relative changes in emission intensity. – Nature
These types of experiments are part of a new technology called ‘plant nanobionics’. The purpose of which is to give plants new non-native abilities.
Such technology could be used to detect changes in critical environmental variables.
A novel concept and not without merit, but let us just think about this for one minute. While indeed plants that can communicate information back to humans may have a whole array of use cases, what is the effect of this unworldly spinach plant being unleashed into the environment?
Once again, this is an area of subject matter they don’t seem to want to touch on. Why? Because they have no answer, we cannot know until it is too late and nature is changed forever.
I’m a big fan of technology and science, but when it comes to the modification of life itself, that is where I draw the line.
I like spinach just the way it is.