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Making Plants Aluminum Tolerant

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Science  06 Jun 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5318, pp. 1497
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5318.1497

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Aluminum toxicity is a major problem to agricultural crops, affecting some 30% to 40% of the world's arable lands and reducing yields by as much as 80%. Now, Mexican researchers have come up with a possible genetic-engineering fix. They report on page 1566 of this issue of Science that they were able to make tobacco and papaya plants aluminum tolerant by providing them with a bacterial gene that causes them to pump citric acid into the soil. This in turn ties up aluminum ions, preventing them from entering and damaging the plants' roots.