July 10, 2007

Late Night Late Blight Plight

I try to stay away from controversial topics here on my blog. There are many things that I have very strong opinions on but I don't ever want to seem as though I'm forcing my ideas on people. I believe the things I do because I believe in them. Not because some celebrity or famous person holds the same views. I've done the research behind them; I have the education and evidence to defend what I say.

I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. To me, it goes hand in hand with the First Amendment. Free speech means that we can believe in whatever we want and voice those beliefs. What bothers me though is when people go overboard. When they become slanderous, destructive with their First Amendment right. Also when they just spout off about an issue that they haven't fully researched.

Last Saturday, protesters in Cambridgeshire, UK scaled fences and destroyed some research trials of potatoes. This bothers me on many levels (trespassing, destruction of property to name a couple) but as a researcher it really hits home. You can read the full article here, but the nitty gritty is that the trial was researching the resistance of genetically modified potatoes again late blight. Late blight is a fungal disease that infects spuds and can wipe out an entire field. It is the most economically important disease in potatoes because of its difficulty to control. Currently, there are few (if any) organic controls so massive amounts of chemical fungicides are applied. Genetically modified plants are being researched for their natural resistance to the disease. The protesters were obviously in opposition to the genetic modifications.

I see both sides of this issue. For many reasons, I'm not going to even talk about my opinion on the topic. My main complaint with the story is that the protesters were illegal in their actions to express their freedom of speech. They could have held lawful protests, boycotted other products of the research company to show their opposition, but ripping up entire research trials is way beyond freedom of speech. It takes a great amount of time, money and effort to design and implement research projects. I spend countless hours trying to take care of tiny details that will ensure "sound" scientific procedure. I can't even imagine how upset I'd be if something like this happened to something I coordinated.

Anyway, that's all. I am supposed to be working. This news story was in my email this morning and it triggered a random work-related post.


silver said...

Those sort of stories always make me mad as well. I've been to graduate school, and the thought that years of research toward a PhD could be ruined by protesters disgusts me, even without the trespassing/vandalism aspect.

Marz said...

I agree with you, totally. It's how I feel about PETA.I am against animal research, etc but I feel that what they do is just way over board.