US government recruiting plants to spy

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The United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking to genetically modify plants to turn them into spies.

According to the Department of Defense agency, the Advanced Plant Technologies program will pursue technologies to engineer robust, plant-based sensors that are self-sustaining in their environment and can be remotely monitored using existing hardware. The genetically engineered plants will work by amplifying stimulus-response mechanisms to detect the presence of certain chemicals, pathogens, radiation, and electromagnetic signals.

“Plants are highly attuned to their environments and naturally manifest physiological responses to basic stimuli such as light and temperature, but also in some cases to touch, chemicals, pests, and pathogens,” Blake Bextine, APT program manager, says.

The use of plants will limit exposure of human spies to harmful conditions and reduce costs, says DARPA, which will hold a “Proposers Day” for the program on December 12.