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Toxic Roundup

September 18, 2013

Scientists have figured out how to turn spider venom into an insecticide.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Stopping insect pests with spider venom. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

An Australian tarantula. (Margaret C. Hardy)

Spider venom is lethal to most insects, but it’s not a very practical insecticide, because it works only if it’s injected. But now Australian researchers report in the journal PLOS One that they’ve isolated a tarantula protein that’s deadly to insects even when eaten. They hope to use the protein as a novel new bio-insecticide.

In other news, cilantro, the leafy herb used in salsa and a variety of dishes may be useful as a water filter, pulling out a variety of toxic heavy metals, like lead and mercury. This according to US and Mexican researchers reporting at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society. They say the plant’s cell walls absorb the metals efficiently. The idea is to provide people living in rural areas with a low cost alternative to activated charcoal filters. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.