I just read an article in New Statesman saying that some molecular biologists had succeeded in fixing a basic flaw in the process of photosynthesis.
Photosynthesis isn’t very efficient — only roughly 3% iirc.
Apparently plants have a tendency to latch onto O2 molecules instead of CO2 molecules, producing toxins instead of sugars and free oxygen, slowing plant growth by a lot. Since all green plants use the exact same process of photosynthesis, no plant has an evolutionary advantage.
The link is here.
The scientists quoted claim to have figured out a way to get tobacco plants to avoid treating oxygen like carbon dioxide, and that the tobacco plants then produced 40% more biomass.
If their claim is true (I’m skeptical until I read of others replicating their work) then it might very well happen that there are enormous, unintended side effects on the plant itself that we can only guess at. So far, almost all of the “Green Revolution” plant changes have, from what I’ve read recently, not produced much change in output per plant or per hectare. (Fertilizers are a different matter…)
If this experiment is in fact successful, then one worry would be that the CRISPR’d genes (or the plants themselves) would escape from the planted fields into the wild — where they would out-grow, and hence out-compete other plants that didn’t have this photosynthetic “fix”. Who knows what would happen? I don’t but I think the effects could well be catastrophic.
This is potentially an enormous change. Better be very, very cautious about this!!!
“ut even if this trait does spread beyond farms it’s unlikely to cause serious problems, says plant geneticist Maureen Hanson of Cornell University.
“Enhanced growth of a weedy species is not likely to disturb ecology as much as we already disturb it through the environmental effects of traditional agriculture,” she says.”
I’m not so sure about that.