Monday, August 12, 2013

New Science: Plants Evolve Differently When Sprayed with Insecticides

I was driving to the Napa Valley Wine Library's annual tasting (my maiden voyage to this storied event) and listening to the latest podcast of Living on Earth, when I heard this rather jaw-breaking news.

Give it a listen and see what you think. Or you can read it here.

Basically, what researchers found is that by eliminating insecticides, plants rapidly stop producing the toxins that they naturally produce to keep insects at bay.

Says Cornell plant scientist Anurag Agrawal, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University: "I think that what it [the experiment] tells us is that when we take insects out of the picture – using things like insecticides – we are encouraging plants throughout the evolutionary process to relax their defenses.

And, in fact, this is a story that I think is unfortunately really a big part of worldwide agricultureand that is that we tend to select varieties of plants to grow that are diminished in their natural defensive capacities. If you take a wild plant that has survived out there for millions of years, it typically has a remarkable array of toxins and defense tactics to ward off pests."

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