Scientists have turned spinach into biological sensors that email environmental alerts

You’ve got mail: It’s from your spinach, and it’s warning you about the arsenic in your soil.

When it grows in a field, most spinach just sits there, absorbing light and nutrients and growing leaves. A new, engineered version of spinach does quite a bit more: It can detect dangerous levels of arsenic in the soil and then send a signal to a nearby cell phone to warn a farmer. It’s one example of a “nanobionic” sensor: plants that are being developed to serve as biological warning tools, not food.

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