A dilemma for the Greens

The Greens attacked the government last year for reducing the defence force contribution to a UN landmine clearance program and their defence policy states:

Prohibit the development or use of nuclear, cluster bombs, depleted uranium weapons, landmines and biological weapons

A new development in the US though is going to cause them a wee bit of a dilemma for them:

Scientists have genetically modified mice to enable them to sniff out landmines. They hope the GM mouse, known as MouSensor, could one day become a useful tool to help deal with the dangerous legacies of past wars.

More than 70 countries are contaminated by landmines, a constant reminder of previous conflicts. “Long after wars have ended, communities are still impeded from going back to their normal, daily activities because of all these mines still affecting their land,” said Charlotte D’Hulst of Hunter College, New York, who led the team that developed the MouSensor.

One approach to clearing landmines is to use HeroRats, giant pouched rats that are trained to sniff out landmines by the Belgian NGO, Apopo.

Two of these, with a human handler, can clear an area of 300 sq metres in less than two hours. It would take two people about two days to do the same. One disadvantage of the HeroRats system, however, is that the rats need nine months’ training before they are ready for landmine detection.

D’Hulst wanted to improve on the HeroRats concept by creating a genetically modified “supersniffer” mouse, sensitive to the specific odour of the explosives in landmines, TNT.

What to do?

The Greens also oppose all genetic modification, totally, in many policy areas.

So what will they do regarding this dilemma…ban the use of the GM mice and rats on purist grounds allowing landmines to remain undetected?

Or will they just treat this as an inconvenient proof that GM has benefits and just stay silent?


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