The main way that biotechnology has been used to help the environment is through bioremediation. Bioremediation is the use of certain microorganisms that naturally process certain dangerous organic substances (primarily petroleum-based fuels) to clean up contaminated areas. This usually requires greatly increasing the amount of the necessary microorganism in the contaminated area, either by importing live cultures or by promoting the growth of the population by increasing the amount of oxygen and nutrients.
Plants can also be used as a means of removing pollutants from contaminated soil or groundwater (this is called phytoremediation). Usually this is done by the plant’s absorbing contaminants (including metals, pesticides and crude oil) through their roots. If the contaminants absorbed are organic, the plant may be able to break them down into harmless molecules. Otherwise, the plants simply store the contaminants, and then must be destroyed.
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