2 November 2001

Electric trees may shine

A CHRISTMAS tree that powers its own lights?

Sounds far-fetched, but that illuminating idea illustrates the immense potential of biotechnology to replace current industrial processes, says Bernard Witholt, chairman of the Institute of Biotechnology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

An electric eel can generate a 600v shock. So, in theory, scientists should be able to identify and reproduce that biological process in a plant, he reasons.

"We are only at the beginning of biotechnological understanding and we do not know how far this can go. A lot is going to happen in the next 20, 30 or 40 years." &#42