- Scripps Howard reported on April 16, 1996 that scientists at the University of Georgia changed the genetic
makeup of the arabidopsis weed to hold a bacterial gene, mercuric ion reductase, according to a study
published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The gene causes the plants to
produce an enzyme that digests mercury into a less toxic form. In fact, the plants grew well in growing
media that contained toxic levels of mercury. Arabidopsis, a mustard, is a common research plant, but may
not be useful in the field. Rich Meagher, a professor of genetics at the university who has coordinated
work on the project since 1989.
- Poplar Trees
- Scripps Howard reported on April 16, 1996 that Rich Meagher, a professor of genetics at the Unversity of
Georgia, working with Georgia forestry professor Scott Merkle, has been able to insert the heavy metal
eating merA gene into the yellow poplar, also called the tulip poplar, and is working on other trees, such as
sweet gum and cypress. The researchers hope to include the gene in a strain of salt marsh grass, which
could help clean up pollution caused by paper mills in fragile estuaries.
- Purdue University researchers say raw, minced horseradish roots mixed with hydrogen peroxide remove
chlorinated compounds often found in the wastes from steel mills, mining operations, paper bleaching and
the manufacture of plastics, textiles and detergents. The key to success is the enzyme horseradish
peroxidase, which causes pollutants to form insoluble polymers that can be easily removed. Scientists
already knew that horseradish can detoxify wastewater, but they say soils might be decontaminated simply
by rototilling horseradish growing in the soil and adding hydrogen peroxide.