The Odd Blog

And when our cubs grow / We'll show you what war is good for


Posted by That Other Mike on 12/09/2008

Earthworms to aid soil clean-up

By Elizabeth Mitchell
Science reporter, BBC News

Worms munching polluted and non-polluted soils showed different colours
Scientists have discovered how metal-munching earthworms can help plants to clean up contaminated soils.

Researchers at Reading University found that subtle changes occurred in metals as worms ingested and excreted soil.

These changes make it easier for plants to take up potentially toxic metals from contaminated land.

Earthworms could be the future “21st Century eco-warriors”, scientists suggested at the British Association Science Festival in Liverpool.

There are many sites across the UK with contaminated soil due to previous industrial activities, including mines, engineering works and lead smelters.

This looks kind of interesting. I’ve often thought and said that we should be looking more to biologically-based solutions to pollution and other problems. Unfortunately, this is something of a silly point with the modern environmental movement, which tends to have not so much a knee jerk reaction but a whole body spasm when you mention “tampering with nature”. The silliness and scare-mongering over genetically-modified crops, for example.

And yet, we could be adding to nature and using the ever ingenious and inventive power of biology to find solutions to existing problems — using it as a booster rocket to spark further invention. We’ve already seen this before in the form of bacteria that eat plastic, while North Carolina State University scientists have pioneered a way to create hydrogen by bacterial action, and Brazil uses ethanol-based fuel in all its vehicles, produced by the fermentation action of yeast. All of this depends upon single-celled organisms; if we engineered them properly, we could eliminate energy dependency. Or we could engineer new forms of algae or kelp to provide food. The point is that these massive changes are within our grasp, if we simply had the will to ignore the fear-mongers and press ahead with this.

It’s time to use these small organisms to make big changes, and time to ignore the ignorant nay-sayers who depend upon fear to push an uninformed agenda.


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