While the subject of genetically modified (GM) crops for general consumption may still be controversial, air compressors have played an important role in keeping behind-the-scenes scientific testing under control.
The scientific periodical Nature reports on how the detection of GM wheat in crops in Oregon, USA has led to concerted efforts to determine how the seeds were able to be sown, in a country where no GM wheat is supposed to be grown commercially.
And those involved in researching GM crops say it is more likely to be down to sabotage than accidental release, due to the close attention given to cleaning up after any tests.
Robert Zemetra, an Oregon State University wheat breeder, tells Nature that his team used air compressors to blast-clean combine harvesters that had been totally dismantled after being used in testing.
In some circumstances, they would extract individual remaining seeds using tweezers.
Rene Van Acker, a weed scientist at the University of Guelph, Canada, took a similar approach to cleanliness, telling the periodical: “We had to account for pretty much every seed in and every seed out, down to the gram.”