To me, the greatest thing about the movie Avatar, by James Cameron, had to be the beautiful, glowing ecosystem of Pandora. Which means I was the perfect person to hear about the actual glowing plants offered by a San Francisco team.
Offered on Kickstarter, the crowd-funding website that hooks up inventive types with folks who have too much disposable money, the glowing Arabidopsis spoke to me. Anthony Evans, the project’s spokesperson on Kickstarter.com, offered backers a package of seeds that, when planted, would sprout a genetically modified plant that would glow on its own. Vegetable bioluminescence.
It sounds like a relatively simple idea. Take the genes that govern bioluminescence and graft them into the genes for a benign plant species. The idea is simple. The implementation, though, is astonishingly complex.
Still, there’s no way I could ignore this possibility. Not only was the whole thing speaking to me, I know that my middle little dude, Zippy the College Boy, believes Avatar is the ultimate expression of film, the best movie ever conceived and produced, so being able to give him a glowing Pandora-like plant. . . Couldn’t pass it up.
Which, it turns out, was a good thing for me. Because just as soon as the glowing plants were funded by more than 8,400 backers, kicking in $484,013 to fund a $65,000 request, Kickstarter banned anyone from giving away any genetically modified organisms.
Firstly, you can see I wasn’t alone. More than 8,400 people backed the project, kicking in more than seven times the amount the creators would have considered a winning goal. Secondly, I understand Kickstarter’s hesitation, but I think an outright ban is a bad idea.
I understand that no one likes the idea of a genetically modified plant running wild. Think about it. If you create a weedy plant that is much better at spreading itself, it could literally overrun entire sections of the country, the world. Think the kudzu plant. Here in the south, the kudzu plant is a green menace, gradually taking over every single inch of land it can reach. Now imagine if someone souped it up. Yikes. Kudzu-World.
Still, the folks behind this project selected a plant that isn’t weedy, doesn’t spread without human help, and does not receive a significant reproductive advantage from the glowing genetic inserts.
A blanket ban on genetically modified organisms seems like a bit of an overreaction to the possibility of something going wrong. I mean, I’m a big believer that we’re going to need all the help we can get for the human race to help heal the planet we’ve done so much to damage.
Genetically modified organisms might be the only way we have of healing the damage. And cutting off a funding source for dudes who are looking for ways to expand our abilities doesn’t sound very smart to me.