Nature Abhors a Vacuum

What a surprising headline…”Genetically Altered Wheat in Oregon Comes as No Surprise“. (NYT June 5, 2013)

As reported, genetically altered wheat from an experiment closed down about 12 years ago, showed up in an Oregon farmer’s organic wheat field. Monsanto, the company that developed the genetically altered wheat, stated that this was “a random isolated occurrence.”Genetically Altered Wheat

Obviously, the scientists at Monsanto never watched “Jurassic Park”. In one scene in that movie, Jeff Goldblum’s character asks about dinosaurs breeding and he is informed that they have been genetically altered to be all female…thus, no breeding. It is a failsafe system…so he is told.

Of course, at the end of the movie, we see hatched eggs…as his character states; nature finds a way.

Ok, that was a movie…but I mean really. Did Monsanto’s scientists pass basic biology? Nature abhors a vacuum is a simple premise that essentially points out that where there is an empty space, nature will find something to fill it with.

Leave pavement alone for some time and grasses start to grow. Don’t weed your garden and, well, we all know what happens then.

Yet we are surprised that in an outdoor experiment, with all of the variables that the natural world can generate, and that we do not understand, we are surprised that some genetically modified grain “escaped”?

The logic that wheat fertilizes itself, and that its pollen has a short shelf life, is flawed from the outset. One thing that we know about nature is that there are no absolutes.

So what is the big deal? Probably nothing. Monsanto stopped this experiment some time ago and gave up on the concept. There have been no other findings of this wheat elsewhere and this is probably an isolated case.

However, as the article notes, wheat is a grass and grasses can cross-pollinate and hybridize like all plants. The gene tested was designed to infer resistance to pesticides. Now, if that gene makes it into the general population of grasses…and those grasses are deemed weeds…guess what…it will be harder to kill the weeds.

Hmmm, I guess that nature does indeed find a way.

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