- Category: Technology
23 Aug 2012
- Published on Thursday, 23 August 2012 11:14
- Hits (968)
Genetically engineered algae might be a boon for the biofuel industry, but they could be a bane to the natural ecosystem if they find their way out of their man-made habitats.
Scientists from Ohio State University caution that the environmental risks of genetically engineered algae must also be considered before widespread cultivation.
According to Allison Snow, a professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology, the ability of an genetically engineered algae to survive in the wild should be studied.
“We need to know if they can survive and whether they can hybridize or evolve to become more prolific when they get out of a controlled environment,” said Ms. Snow.
As algae are small and easily dispersed by rough weather or wildlife activity, modified algae should be studied to determine if they would affect the natural ecosystem in anyway. They should be tested to ensure that they would not produce toxins or harmful algal blooms. It must also be determined if any of the genes they contain could be transferred to other algal species.
Genetic modification could also be key to assuaging fears of “mutant” algae strains developing in the wild. Aside from modifying algae to be bigger and better for the biofuel industries, they can also be equipped with “suicide genes” that would make it impossible to survive in the wild.
According to Ms. Snow, there are a lot of unknowns involved in the development of microalgae as algae doesn’t have the breeding history of established crop plants such as corn and soybeans. But with the proper precautions and assessments, algae can be modified to be a good biofuel source without posing harm to the environment.– EcoSeed Staff