Email Print Share

25. Genomics Bio-Pharming with Plants - Nifty 50

Cornstalks in Colorado

Despite controversy over possible safety issues, plant or agricultural biotechnology appears to produce better health and a cleaner, safer environment.

NSF-funded and other government agency research is helping farmers produce food with less pesticide residues, which results in cleaner and safer water.

Lactose intolerance and other food-related ailments could become a thing of the past if allergens in milk and wheat products are eliminated or greatly reduced. Vegetables with higher vitamin E content are expected to help fight heart disease, while an improved strain of rice with enhanced levels of vitamin A and iron will help battle nutritional deficiencies in many people's diets.

An example of recent plant pharmaceuticals is taxol, a secondary plant product derived from the bark or needles of the Pacific Yew tree. Taxol has been found to be effective against certain types of cancer. A synthetic form of taxol is being developed, with the goal of producing larger quantities of taxol and reducing damage or destruction to Pacific Yew trees.

Plastic soda bottles and packaging peanuts found on beaches, riverbeds or mountain trails may no longer be seen as unsightly trash as new forms of plastic may soon allow these items to biodegrade naturally.

Original publication date: April 2000

Nifty50 home | 50th anniversary | NSF history | NSF home