Scientists Modify Plant to Produce Light

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. give off / gɪv ɔf / (phrasal) – to produce something

    The plant gives off an unpleasant smell.

  2. emanate / ˈɛm əˌneɪt / (v) – to come out from something

    The light emanates from the modified plant.

  3. consumption / kənˈsʌmp ʃən / (n) – the use of something

    Your electrical consumption is too much.

  4. foresee / fɔrˈsi, foʊr- / (v) – to know what might happen in the future

    We were not able to foresee the storm.

  5. substantial / səbˈstæn ʃəl / (adj) – large in size or amount

    After her promotion, she received a substantial pay raise.


Read the text below.

A group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) modified a plant to make it temporarily give off light.

The experiment made use of a watercress plant that was injected with nanoparticles into its leaves. The scientists used an enzyme called luciferase, which is the same substance used by fireflies to emit light. The process resulted in a weak light that emanated from the plant, which lasted for almost four hours.

The scientists’ objective in modifying the plant is to create an environment-friendly alternative to electric lighting, which adds up to about one-fifth of the energy consumption in the world. With natural lighting from plants, the scientists foresee a substantial decrease in carbon dioxide emissions.

Scientists are also convinced that the modified plants can be improved to give off light strong enough for both indoor and outdoor use. With this, they are considering the possibility of using the technology in larger areas such as streets and offices.

The light-giving plant is just one of many plants modified by the team of MIT scientists to function like electric accessories.

In 2016, the same team of scientists modified spinach so that it can sense explosives and send information to a separate gadget. In a recent experiment, the team also modified plants so they can give off signals when they are lacking water. This kind of modification can help alert farmers when their crops are at risk.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Would you be interested in using the light-giving plants? Why or why not?
• Should the scientists continue developing this technology? Why?

Discussion B

• Do you approve of plant modification? Why or why not?
• If you were to modify a plant, what would you make it do? Describe.