17 February 2010

Wednesday Links

A brief story about some University of Florida researchers and the potential to genetically engineer fragrance into flowers which I mostly pass on because I can't resist news stories about people I know (Dave Clark, one of the researchers in the article, is a collaborator with my advisor on the petunia project I'm doing) but also because it is an interesting note in the whole GMO debate. Though really, it would be easier to add fragrance to florist roses with traditional breeding. The genetic engineering approach would only really make sense with something like gerbera daisies with no scent whatsoever. And wouldn't a fragrant gerb be kinda weird?

Studio G does a post on living willow structures. Which I totally want to do. When I eventually graduate, and can move out of the blasted city, to somewhere with SPACE, I'm building one. Probably several.
Do check out this news story of a debate over genetic engineering somewhere in the UK (okay, I looked it up: Birmingham. Don't know where that is, but maybe you do.) It starts of all civilized with people saying they can respect and learn from each other, and ends with one farmer calling the others "miserable gits." Which just makes me giggle.

A good post on the evils of topping trees. I remember a professor explaining this to my class, and saying that topping does have one useful purpose: It can help you pick a good arborist! As in, if they offer to top your trees, don't hire them.

This report of a new repeat blooming cherry tree gets it all back to front. The variety was created via mutation breeding -- which is simply exposing the plant to some mutagen (chemicals, radiation) to create random changes in genes, most of which will be damaging, some of which might be useful. The strange thing about this story is that they act as if mutation breeding is some shiny new alternative to genetic engineering. Fact is, it is OLD news. Mutation breeding has been used in wheat breeding, to create rex begonias and in many other ornamental plants -- it is also a fundamental technique for doing basic research on genetics -- there are thousands and thousands of mutated lines of arabidopsis, corn, etc, in use in genetics labs around the world.

An interesting story in The Atlantic (by way of the essential Give Me Something to Read) about Wal-Mart's movement into local produce -- including a blind taste test comparing produce from Wal-Mart and Whole Food's, where Wal-Mart actually wins in several categories. A very interesting counter-point to the typical knee-jerk "Wal-Mart = bad" thinking.


Jill-O said...

Interesting links. I'm into living willow structures too: I first stumbled upon a school garden in the U.K. that made an outdoor classroom using this technique about a year ago. It seems fairly commonplace in the British Isles.

James Hubbartus said...

Dave Clark is just making a lot of noise. Petunia's are now researched for quite a while all over the world and Dave didn't find or did anything new.
By the way, where are the GMO fragrant flowers? It is now 2012.