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RE: [Aroid-l] Plants that glow in the dark.

  • Subject: RE: [Aroid-l] Plants that glow in the dark.
  • From: "Horak, David" davidhorak@bbg.org
  • Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2006 11:57:34 -0400
  • Content-class: urn:content-classes:message
  • Thread-index: AcbhKmjRLCNLLibpS1GUQjogyoBfHgATgZJg
  • Thread-topic: [Aroid-l] Plants that glow in the dark.

Title: Message
Diatribe Warning!!!!
For a very long time I poo pooed or at least ignored the issues of genetic manipulation except for a minor morbid fascination with the technology and our developing ability to do such things. Jurassic Park was entertaining reading. As time has gone on I am beginning to realize that almost any point of view that I seem to have is not seeing a bigger picture. Genetic manipulation sounds evil because it is perceived as not natural. The reality is that most of the world we know is no longer "natural". I will propose the concept that the use of genetic technologies very well could have profound benefits for species and the environment.
For example, working at a botanic garden we have worked hard to minimize our use of pesticides and fungicides and try to use the most benign solutions to manage pest issues. But, as you all know, the reality is that plants evolve to exist in the conditions of their native environments with specific conditions of light, water, controlling pests and pests that control the pests, etc.. Balance. In artificial conditions this is often not the case. The need to use chemicals to artificially sustain balance are at times necessary. Here we can use restraint, but in the commercial horticultural world this is often not the case. The worst offenders statistically are the home owners and amateurs who may purchase chemicals at the garden center or home depot that we in at the garden are not allowed to use even if we wanted to. The profound use of chemicals in commercial contexts is disturbing, but at least most commercial folks now will carefully use a specific chemical targeted to a pest or pathogen because it makes economic sense. Its expensive. However, the typical homeowner trying to deal with their lawn or roses or trees rarely sends samples to identify a specific pest or pathogen. Chemicals are used willy nilly in the hope the shotgun approach will take care of the weird bug on the tomatoes. The totals for all uses in New York State alone this is tens of thousands of tons of chemicals. It is really frightening.
So hypothetically, (removing the controversial application of genetically modified fruits and vegetables from the argument) what if cultivars of popular ornamental tropicals could be produced that are resistant to fungal diseases or specific pests, and at the same time limited by programmed sterility? I am talking about those millions of plants that are produced that have no chance of impacting on native ecosystems. Even this relatively small reduction in chemicals not going into the environment and the ground water might have tremendous impact to the areas of south Florida and Texas alone. We are not talking species. Think pot plant orchids and poinsettias.  
Even in the context of fruits and vegetables. Our ability to have berries, fruits and vegetables at any time of the year comes with the high price of the widespread and indiscriminant use of pesticides in other parts of the world that we have banned here. They effectively kill the pests and also kill off the pollinators for their native plants (and probably amphibians and other things as well). My major focus is orchids, and my friends in Ecuador increasingly comment on how the insects are gone. There are plenty of orchids in the wild where viable, even disturbed habitats exist, but increasingly there is little fruit set on the plants-few if any pollinators. If protected these plants may live for decades but these plants are now being referred to as living fossils.
If genetically altered plants could eliminate the use of pesticides or produce grains that are higher in protein or able to survive in drought conditions in impoverished countries, which is the greater evil? Could genetic manipulation be a conservation tool? Prevent cancer clusters? I certainly don't know. We might be opening Pandora's box just a little bit more. The point is, the small step of playing with a very identifiable characteristic such as bioluminescence could lead to knowledge and techniques that might lead to more profound benefits. Perhaps a Frankenstein poinsettia could save a rare aroid. Who knows?
Dave Horak
-----Original Message-----
From: aroid-l-bounces@gizmoworks.com [mailto:aroid-l-bounces@gizmoworks.com] On Behalf Of Kyle Baker
Sent: Monday, September 25, 2006 11:03 PM
To: Discussion of aroids
Subject: Re: [Aroid-l] Plants that glow in the dark.

This isn't meant to be political but if these folks could spend half as much time in trying to save endangered plants as they do with creating frankenstein plants we'd all be better off. would I be interested in a glow in the dark plant....probably not, would I ever buy a glow in the dark plant? never. at least no man made and not one that was a hybrid.

Though I understand that the research may help mankind in someway?! is the time and money worth it at this time when there are more pressing matters at hand?

Bio luminescence may be in our future, but lets not rush it.

kyle fletcher baker, maine

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