But a GMO that "escapes" its intended environment may end up wreaking havoc on the natural ecosystem. To combat this, a team at Rice University is developing a device, inspired by a Star Trek tricorder, that can scan water samples to detect the presence of GMO-associated proteins in the wild.
The researchers use the example of Bt-corn, a species of corn that's been modified to express the protein Bt delta endotoxin. This grants the vegetable a natural pesticide against European corn borer caterpillars, without harming most other insects and animals — including humans.
"It's a wonderful invention that lets us produce more corn per unit area," explains Scott Egan, lead researcher on the project.