Taro: It’s Not Just A Hawaiian Thing
Wednesday - June 21, 2006
Who really gives a hoot about the genetic modification of taro by the UH?
The same people who think better shelf-life corn and tomatoes will harm us.
And Molokai’s potentate of perpetual unhappiness, Walter Ritte, who says no Hawaiian should want engineered taro seed.
Also, the Cultural Conservancy founder, Claire Cummings, who says that only a farmer chanting to his taro “has a cultural relationship with the earth.”
All peddlers of baloney, which we know to be collagen-heavy pieces of calf, cow and pig which are ground up and enclosed in an intestine skin, and are really bad for you.
Genetic engineering wiped out a flower-killing virus and enables Ken Kamiya to bring more North Shore papayas to market.
Nobody’s engineered water-cress against pest and disease so it’s now about $3.40 a stubby bunch I no longer buy.
Ritte and others argue that taro’s an original Hawaiian plant.
UCLA’s botany department has a different story:
“Taro was probably first native to the lowland wetlands of Malaysia (in Malaysian it was called taloes). Estimates are that taro was in cultivation in wet tropical India before 5,000 B.C., presumably coming from Malaysia, and from India further transported westward to ancient Egypt, where it was described by Greek and Roman historians as an important crop. The ancient Egyptian word for taro was colcus or kulkas; the ancient Arabic word was qolquas; and the Greek word was colocasia, which is now the generic name. Taro also spread eastward into ancient China and Indonesia. The common name “dasheen” presumably came from de Chine (French, meaning from China), although this is probably not the place of origin for this crop but instead the earliest documentation of its use.”
I’m reminded of what H.G. Wells’s time traveler said prophetically in The Time Machine, written in 1895.
“We’ll improve our favorite plants and animals gradually by selective breeding; now a new and better peach, now a seedless grape, now a sweeter and larger flower, now a more convenient breed of cattle ... in the end, wisely and carefully we shall readjust the balance of animal and vegetable table life to suit our needs.”
(To be honest I have to tell you that most everything except the plants and the butterflies had gone to hell in that novel by the year 802,710 A.D. But that was the result of social rather than scientific issues.)
Now UH has gone to work on flowers and limes.
Will some genetically-modified organisms sometimes get mixed into the unspliced ones? Sure. Should we care? Only if you are a neo-Luddite, believe pests have a right to life, too, or care deeply about the survival of the ring-spot virus.
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