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Poisonous vetch as food for the global climate crisis: Genetic engineering aims to eliminate toxic seeds

Poisonous vetch as food for the global climate crisis: Genetic engineering aims to eliminate toxic seeds

With the help of genetic engineering, it must protect the poisonous vetch from starvation caused by climate change. Scientists are working to create a non-toxic type of protein-rich plant by specifically modifying its DNA. Because vetch does very well in landscapes plagued by weather disasters.

In particular, it tolerates longer periods of drought and, according to Dr. Peter Emmerich of the Norwich Institute for Sustainable Development also mentions floods and saltwater floods. However, in addition to the property of peas to resist global warming, it also has a major drawback: some seeds contain the toxic alkaloid lathirin, which at best can cause breathing difficulties, skin rashes and digestive problems, and at worst, Irreversibility can lead to paralysis.

However, the ancient cultivated plant is processed into animal feed in some regions of the world and is still on the menu in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Ethiopia and Algeria, for example as a flour for bread or as a vegetable. But only as emergency food when other fruits and vegetables are not available due to crop losses. However, as an important precaution, the plant should not be consumed in large or daily amounts.

The risk of developing chronic diseases

In the countries mentioned above, poisoning occurs again and again, especially among people who are already undernourished. As long as vetch is consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, consumption should be largely safe, but consumption alone as a staple food can lead to neurotoxic lathyrism.

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Symptoms of chronic disease include cramps in the muscles of the extremities and progressive paralysis of the leg muscles. Historic outbreaks occurred in Spain during the Napoleonic Wars, when people had no food source other than vetch.

optimistic look

British scientists now hope to be able to breed a completely non-toxic variant through genome editing in the near future in order to provide humanity with food containing valuable vegetable protein:

Very soon we will be able to make safe versions of grass peas and provide our undernourished and overheated planet with a very valuable crop.

Project scientist, Dr. Ann Edwards of the John Innes Center in Norfolk

In addition, the vigorous plant provides other special advantages, such as a deep root system, which produces bacteria that act as nitrogen-rich fertilizer, thus improving soil quality and fertility.