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Botany Of Desire Essay

1651 words - 7 pages

In Michael Pollan's chapter of Botany of Desire, he talks about genetic modification; injecting genome into the DNA of other crops with the sole purpose to change their characteristics. Pollan genetically modifies a potato and is named the “NewLeaf”. Pollan’s research question is about creating a New Leaf Potato by injecting a bacterium called Baclilus Thuringiensis (bt) in the potatoes DNA. By doing this, it allows the potato to defend itself from their biggest threat, which is the Colorado beetle. Throughout this chapter, Pollan shows the reader that he has an opinion on genetically modified crops and how it can not only affect us today, but also in the future. He gives us ...view middle of the document...

Pollan talks about how the Incas had a polyculture in history and how Ireland was a monoculture. Even if there was a superbug in Peru, they had a variety of crops they could harvest and stop planting the one invaded. But as Pollan explained, Ireland only had one type of potato and soon became defenseless to pests and all the potatoes died. They became extremely dependent to the potato that they sooner became vulnerable: “Dependence on the potato had in fact made the Irish exquisitely vulnerable, not to the vicissitudes of the economy so much as to those of nature” (205). Since Ireland only planted one type of potato, they were considered a monoculture and when the superbug came around, they weren’t able to plant this and so the country suffered from starvation. The Irish feel as if they gave their control of nature to the potato since its what caused the starvation: “David Ricardo was convinced that the potato was both the cause and symbol of this regression, this surrender of control to nature” (205). Connecting the history to the current cultivation of the NewLeaf potato, Pollan fears that history will repeat itself. Michael Pollan wonders about the consequences of monoculture by saying, “whether in evolutionary terms a monoculture really represents long-term success for a species is an open question” (228). Pollan also wonders whether the cultivation of these potatoes will someday lead us to a monoculture in which the consequences can be severe or will it lead us to success. A large amount of farmers are planting the NewLeaf Potato and thus fears we will become a monoculture like Ireland. His main reason as to why he gives us history on the potato is to give his readers an example in history in which becoming too dependent on a crop, leads to devastating results.
Biology plays a major role in trying to describe the genetic modification of plants. Pollan describes his New Leaf as “clones of clones of plants”(206). The New Leaf can be seen as clones because they are a replication of other potatoes and can be traced back for more than a decade. As Pollan described throughout the chapter, the potato has been modified numerous times and so it really isn’t as original as one would assume. Pollan also talks about the genetic instability when planting these crops. Genetic instability is the “term used to describe the various unexpected effects that misplaced or unregulated foreign genes can have on their new environment” (208). This goes back to the idea of monoculturalism because with genetic instability, genes tend to move from one environment to another without us knowing it has been done and consequently the NewLeaf may invade plants nearby. By bringing up genetic instability in this chapter, Pollan tries to show that our chances of becoming a monoculture can be augmented with genetic instability.
Throughout this chapter, Pollan introduces three other farmers including an organic farmer, a Monsanto farmer, and a regular farmer....

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