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In the Real World

Environment and Biotechnology

Why not let the bugs take care of some environmental issues? They are. To find out how, read on.

Advances in biotechnology have allowed scientists to engineer microbes that can be useful in tackling some environmental problems. A type of bacteria called Alcanivorax can feed on oil that is spilled in the ocean. While they may not be able to completely eliminate all of the oil spilled in the Gulf in 2010, they certainly can help a little.

Another type of bacteria, Geobacter, can make uranium insoluble. This prevents it from building up in groundwater. Scientists are still hammering out the mechanism, but this holds great promise 4.

Believe it or not, bacteria found in panda poop may also help the environment. One of the obstacles in producing plant-based biofuels is the break down of the plant materials. A bacteria found in panda feces was discovered to accelerate the breakdown of a tough plant material called lignocellulose. This goes to show that pandas are good for many things in addition to eating bamboo and being adorable.

Furthermore, scientists may be able to study bacteria such as those just mentioned and genetically engineer bugs to help out with environmental problems in more efficient and better ways.

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