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

December 6, 2009

Sunday Links 12/6

Filed under: Link Posts — Tags: , , — James @ 12:59 pm

MAT Kinase tells the story of some of a cool, weird, (and potentially deadly) fruit created using nothing but conventional breeding techniques in Plumalmodterine.

Steve Savage has the conversation with a Greenpeace campaigner I’ve always wanted to have with the people who can constantly be found soliciting money for similar organizations on my walk to work.

Steve’s post reminded me of this awesome (and freely available article) from Plant Physiology: Forbidden Fruit: Transgenic Papaya in Thailand* which is highly recommended reading for anyone interested in genetic engineering, the developing world, and the role of NGOs like Greenpeace.

I’m considering making this a regular feature. I often read cool articles, but it feels weird to put up a post that just says “go read this” when I don’t have anything of my own to add. Anyway, the test of whether this will be a feature or a fluke will be if I remember to post another one in a week.

*I know I’d previously mentioned this in my post on virus-resistant papayas, but I think there are at least several new readers since then and I’ve been dismayed to find out how little publicity this article seems to have received when it first came out.

November 12, 2009

Hawaiian Pineapples and the Seed Industry

Filed under: agriculture,Fun With Numbers — Tags: , , , — James @ 2:37 pm
Pineapple. Wish I'd thought to check for a country of origin...

Pineapple. Wish I'd thought to check for a country of origin...

Since today seems to have a tropical theme, here’s another post about Hawaii:

The corn breeding industry is expanding in Hawaii*. The pineapple industry is contracting. People seem to be blaming the second on the first, and are passing this article around. My reading of the article, and some other statistics I looked, don’t seem to agree with the story line (evil GMO seed companies driving out the pineapple industry) that people seem to be suggesting.

Yes, Monsanto did buy out one of Hawaii’s three remaining large pineapple growers several years ago (as of 2007 there were also 49 small pineapple producers growing pineapples on 1-15 acres and a single medium sized grower with between 100-250 acres), but Maui Land & Pineapple Co., the company this article talks about, isn’t selling out to a seed company, they’re switching to the production of other crops instead of pineapples. One company sells its land and shuts down, another stays in the farming business but gives up on pineapples and announced plans to grow a more diverse range of crops. To me, that suggests it is becoming harder and harder to make a profit growing pineapples in Hawaii. (more…)

Genetically Engineered Crops: Papaya

Photo Reeding, Flickr (Click for photo stream)

Photo Reeding, Flickr (Click for photo stream)

Scientific Name: Carica papaya

Genetically Engineered Trait: Resistance to the papaya ringspot virus

Details of Genetic Engineering:

In the 1990s papaya ringspot virus was in the process of wiping out the Hawaiian papaya industry, then the second largest fruit industry in Hawaii. Conventional approaches such as selective breeding for resistant papayas or attempting to grow trees in isolation had failed. The virus is transmitted by small sap-sucking insects such as aphids. Infected papaya trees can be recognized by the discolored rings on their fruit (that the virus gets its name from) yellow leaves, and most importantly from a papaya farmer’s perpsective a 60-100%* loss of fruit production. (more…)

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