2 June 1995

Humans help speed testing

NEW-GENERATION, highly specific herbicides will be cheaper, safer and available quicker, thanks to bacteria normally found in the human gut.

Several ag-chem companies are using genetically-engineered E Coli bacteria to make exact copies of plant proteins to speed testing of potential new chemicals.

"Such proteins are found at very low levels. Trying to extract them from individual plants is extremely difficult," explains David Cole, principal scientist for Rhône-Poulenc at Ongar, Essex.

But by isolating the protein-making genes from the plant and inserting them into the bacterias own DNA, thousands of times as much protein is produced, he explains.

That makes it much simpler and quicker to test herbicides for specific low-dose activity. &#42