Thursday, March 31, 2005

Grandparents and (Genetic) Information

I have always loved my grandmother and I was not the only family member to do so. She was honoured, loved, revered by all the family. Indeed, my grandmother's high status together with the vibrant, imaginative and loving way my mother took charge of her family formed a kind of matriatrichal cocoon in which I happily spent the first 15 years of my life. The shock I sustained when I finally managed to peep out of this cocoon has stayed with me to this day.

But my grandmother died when I was five. How can she still be so important to me, when I don't remember a single thing she said? I don't know. Moreover, none of this has anything to do with the arabidopsis plant and its paradigm shifting ability to occasionally ignore Mendel's laws of inheritance.

I really can't put it any better than the folks at context:
Contrary to inheritance laws the scientific world has accepted for more than 100 years, some plants revert to normal traits carried by their grandparents, bypassing genetic abnormalities carried by both parents.

So there you have the tender little arabidopsis plants. It is time to develop a flower and all the genetic information we think they have tells them to form tight little balls instead of useful flowers. And 10% of the arabidopsis thus stricken say, 'nah, isn't much use, is it?' and produce nice open flowers anyway.

The scientists at Purdue University who conducted the research wouldn't dream of putting it in such blatantly anthropomorphic terms. What they do say, however, is this:
Our genetic training tells us that's just not possible. This challenges everything we believe.
Does this mean that my suspicion of GM-foods is justified? Again, I don't know, but I hope someone will find out pretty soon.

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