Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spiders weaving silk

During the recent Earth Hour season, my colleague, Nicholas Boo Tzyy Guang happened to be in Sunway Giza one weekend. While walking along the eateries, he stumbled upon an eye-catching exhibition by an owner of an organic shop. I am sharing two photos taken by Nicholas.

For ease of reading, I am reproducing the captions provided by the organizers.

Do you know frog genes are inserted to your brinjals so that they have unusually broad spectrum and monstrous power to resist various infections?

Do you know the delicious tomatoes on your plate are inserted with spider genes so that the evil corporations can earn billions of dollars from the silk extraction from tomatoes?

I also shared these photos with my daughters as they are the environmental preachers at home, who constantly remind me of recycling, renewable energy sources, and sustainability of natural resources.

My daughters asked me to verify this information and when I explained to them that there are no frog genes in brinjal nor spider genes in tomatoes, they were perplexed. I further explained that even if some companies wanted to extract silk from tomatoes, why would they then let us have the “silky” tomatoes on our plates when it was meant for extraction of silk. Isn’t it silly to sell these tomatoes in the market for the same price of the normal tomatoes? And also, how can genes from spider produce silk? It is like saying I sow apple seeds and get oranges… If spiders could weave silk, I wouldn’t be dusting off the spider webs in my house. I will collect them and make a beautiful sari for myself or even start a silk business…

I also explained to them Bt brinjal which carries genes Bacillus thuringiensis, a soil bacterium used as pesticide even by organic farmers. And that Bt brinjal is not in the market yet. Lucky me, my daughters are technology savvy and were quick enough to grasp my technical explanation. But what was difficult to answer was their question on ethics:

“Why then these exhibitors lie so blatantly? Won’t they feel ashamed of themselves saying all this silly things?”

Now, that was a difficult question to answer. But since when did these scaremongers feel ashamed to lie. If only this information came from a mainstream scientist, he or she would be a laughing stock among his/her peers.

I can only hope the public has a good sense of judgment, critical thinking and some science knowledge so they don’t fall prey to all this pseudoscience.

Mahaletchumy Arujanan

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