James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

October 29, 2009

Crops and Colbert

I love the Colbert Report, but could somebody who knows something about agriculture and plant genetics please sit down with Stephen Colbert until he knows what he’s talking about food wise? Every so often he’ll make these incredibly uneducated jokes about food production. It’s weird to be suddenly jerked out of enjoying the episode as I remember “These guys are comedians, not experts.”

Back in April he turned the debate about Michelle Obama’s organic garden into a crack at round-up ready soybeans. Yesterday*, in the middle of a funny bit about breeding people who might actually be able to get health insurance, we got the mocking:

After all, selective breeding and genetic modification have worked miracles for our fruits, vegetables and livestock.

Yes they really have. Let’s leave genetic engineering out of the mix (after all most people having eaten a genetically engineered fruit or vegetable in their lives, unless you’re a big fan of papayas, or certain kinds of squash, and genetic engineering of livestock is way behind where we are with plants). Selective breeding of plants over thousands of years is what feeds the wold today and has for millennia. Before the advent of agriculture, which was made possible by selective breeding to domesticate plants and animals, the world supported, what, 5-10 million hunter gatherers, spread across the entire face of the globe?

Without selective breeding of crops and livestock we wouldn’t have a civilization to begin with, let alone one advanced enough to have developed not only our complex (but good) system of medicine but also our complex (and not so good) medical insurance.

I’m serious, does anyone know if there’s a way to nominate people to be interviewed on the Colbert Report? I want to nominate Pamela Ronald and Roger Beachy.

*I have to catch the Daily Show and Colbert Report the day after  the fact on Hulu.

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