There's been a huge amount of publicity over the past few years about how GM plants are going to solve the problem of landmine detection. News items around the globe—from the New York Times to the BBC—have trumpeted the life saving potential of plants genetically modified to "Red Detect": change from green to red when grown near to landmines or unexploded ordinance.

In 2004 Reuters reported under the headline "Flower-power could help clear landmines" that the biotech company behind red detect hoped to have a prototype on the market "within a couple of years".[1] Three years later, TIME Magazine reported under the headline "Saving lives and limbs with a weed" that Aresa hoped to "have a reliable land-mine-detecting thale-cress in about two years and hopes to apply similar biotech to detect larger, unexploded ordnance and eventually to cull antibodies from plants."[2]

But it emerged in late 2008 that the technology had failed. Aresa reported, "As was expected the tests in Serbia did not produce a positive result (none of the plants changed colours to red)" (emphasis added). The scientific staff had been fired, reported Aresa, and the firm was seeking to transform itself from a biotech firm into a property company[3] - something Aresa described as a "far less risky" investment strategy.[4]

The fact that the project failed attracted no coverage in the mainstream media.


1. Elinor Schang, "Flower-power could help clear landmines", Reuters, 28 January 2004, accessed 10 June 2009

2. Mark Halper, "Saving lives and limbs with a weed", TIME, 13 November 2007, accessed 10 June 2009

3. "Aresa: A new start after the red card", Praetorian Research, 31 October 2008, accessed 10 June 2009

4. "Aresa: Less risk - same focus", Praetorian Research, 18 September 2008, accessed 10 June 2009