Friday, December 01, 2006

Botany rant.

There is no knitting content in this post. None. If you're looking for it, wait until later today.

This is about apples. With a side trip into potatos.

No, I'm not kidding. And yes, as a matter of fact, I am drugged. And have a migraine. Nyeah.

Oookay. Quick botany lesson so the rant makes sense: There are two ways for plants to reproduce. Sexually and cloning. (In a nutshell. I'm simplifying this so we aren't here all day.) Sexually means flowers, pollen, and seeds, plus a whole genetically new plant at the end of the process. Cloning means all kinds of things; planting bits of potatos for new potatos, splitting a big plant into smaller plants, growing roots on violet leaf cuttings, or for our purposes, grafting the branches of old apple trees onto new root/stems.

Now. With sexual reproduction, you get genetically new plants, and from that, ADAPTATION. Plants evolve with the bugs that eat them, they develop new defenses as the bugs develop resistance to their old defenses, etc. With cloning, nothing happens. You grow the same damn plant you've always grown, in some cases for a hundred-odd years, while the bugs and other pests evolve and develop a sweet tooth for your ancient plant. (If you watch Stargate, this is what happened to the Asgard. To put it all in a pop culture frame of refrence.)

This results in spraying massive amounts of pesticides, herbicides, and other toxic crap all over acres and acres and hectares of the world, when if we just let the damn things evolve, most of the problems would solve themselves.

Case in point: The Russet Burbank potato. It has been cloned, and cloned, and cloned again, every year, for every crop, and the bugs just ADORE them. It is to the point where it costs more to grow potatos than people will pay for them (leading to the government subsidization of potato growing, but that's a rant for another day). McDonald's and other fast food joints want Russet Burbanks because they're big and make long french-fries, so the world gets Russet Burbanks and to hell with the fact that vast tracts of Idaho are being turned into a sterilized wasteland.

This leads to my comment that if you want to save the environment, screw the snowy owls; quit eating french-fries.

Anyway. Where was I?

Right. Cloning crops and pesticide.

Another crop having major problems, like the potato, is the apple. The 'youngest' strain of apple commonly available these days is the Granny Smith, and it's about a hundred years old, if memory serves. (And it's originally from Australia. Go, Oz!) Apples are another crop that is extremely costly to grow, due to pesticide and herbicide (and fungicide, and bacteriocide and everythingcide) spraying.

So what do the idiot scientists do? Map the apple genome. Do they figure out ways to create new, more viable apple strains? Fuck no!


Fucking morons.


April said...

I like blogs that teach me things. Even if all I learn for the day is a cool phrase like "colder than a polar bear fuck." But today's lesson was rather thought provoking. No more McDonald's fries for this girl, I like owls.

Alwen said...

Crivens! You *are* me! Did I ever tell you I have my degree in horticulture? When I graduated with my bachelor's, my advisor wanted me to go on for a master's -- they had a funding for a project trying to breed tomatoes for resistance to glyphosate!

How does that sound for a great idea! [sarcasm] [or maybe irony, I get those confused]

(mmph mmph mmph) is the sound of me trying not to get started.

Bells said...

Another reason to not eat McDonalds. Like I needed one. Good work Julie. Thanks for that.

Are you referring to the same story we got here yesterday and 'them' figuring out a way to develop pruple striped apples? Yeah, we need them, too.

Julie said...

Oh yes, I have many botany related rants. I'm fighting to not get started, also.

Then there are the science-in-general rants... did you know while I was going to the University of Hawaii, they developed a glow in the dark mouse?

How fucking useful is that?

Terby said...

Actually, I could probably come up with ways the GFP mouse would be useful, especially in breeding other transgenic mice that would be models for disease or whatnot.

But anyhow, there is a movement to preserve heritage apples and tomatoes, I think some other fruits and vegetables as well. The problem is that most consumers WANT red, perfect looking apples, and research gets funded based on what the public desires.

Sheepish Annie said...

I'd be on board if they could make, say...a chocolate flavored apple. Or a calorie-free potato/french fry. I'd be fine with it. But I'm pretty sure that the apples are already quite red so I fail to see the need to use the resources in that area.

Amy Lane said...

Whoa...I actually commented on this earlier today, but here's proof that my darn work blogger doesn't work. (either that or I sounded like a total moron and Julie edited me out...) I just said that it's nice to know stuff like this--I had no idea that plants developed their own immune systems to predators--that's really damned cool. And then we come around and bollux it up, which is really damned not. Interesting and scary...

Julie said...

I understand that the research being done is the research being paid for, not the research NEEDED. (This is the same reason we get five kinds of Viagra and no new antibiotics.) What I didn't say clearly enough is, I think the whole system is screwed. I want to go into agricultural research, but I'm not sure my nerves can take dealing with stuff just like the red apple silliness.

Plants don't quite have immune systems, at least not the way humans do. But all those plant poisons, spines, etc, are all designed by nature to protect them.

debsnm said...

Glow in the dark mice - I see 2 possible uses - night hunting, and something for the cats to do while we sleep.

sienna said...

Yah, yah, yah! Have you seen the documentary "Banana Split"? It goes on about the same deal with bananas, that they're grafted...leading them to become more susceptible to all the banana stocks dying in the 50s (I think) all those folks on the banana plantations losing their trying to find a banana that was just the right yellow & just the right curve & just the right sweetness to appeal to North Americans. It's mad, and maddening! But definitely worth checking out.