Fungus Causes More Problems Than It Solves!

Fungus Causes More Problems Than It Solves!
Posted by FoM on August 03, 1999 at 14:44:03 PT
Staff Editorial, Michigan Daily U. Michigan
Source: Reuters
(U-WIRE) ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Officials in Florida are planning to risk the future of the state's agricultural economy in the name of eradicating marijuana. Jim McDonough, the recently appointed head of Florida's Office of Drug Control, is planning to spread a fungus genetically engineered to kill marijuana over areas where the plant is suspected of being grown.
Is marijuana such a threat to the nation that it justifies recklessly interfering with nature?The only rational answer to this question, regardless of one's personal opinions about marijuana, must be a resounding "no." Of course, Florida anti-drug officials deny that their plans are reckless at all and insist that the fungus will be rigorously tested before it is unleashed - but history and common sense say otherwise. According to the New York Times, the fungus, known as Fusarium oxysporum belongs to a species of fungus that is already predisposed towards mutation, leaving many environmentalists to fear that the genetically engineered fungus may mutate itself and turn on a variety of plants besides the intended marijuana plant. Some endangered plants, tomatoes, corn, peppers, and flowers could all be vulnerable, and Florida's hot climate makes it an unusually ideal place for organisms to mutate. Even worse, in the event of such a mutation, "it would be difficult, if not impossible (to control the anti-pot fungus)" wrote the Secretary of the Florida's Department of Environmental Protection in a letter to McDonough. Historically, Florida has had a long list of problems with the introduction of foreign species. For instance, a fast-growing Chinese vine called Kudzu was planted earlier in the century to stop erosion, it has since claimed everything from houses to roadside throughout the South because it grows a foot a day. The Miami Herald recently reported that farmers in Peru strongly suspect the United States' use of an anti-coca fungus species has led to the death of tangerine, yucca and banana crops. U.S. officials disavow involvement in the death of the food crops but admit that they have aggressively researched biological herbicides to use against marijuana, coca and poppy plants. In light of these facts about the Fusarium species and the nation's past failures (both real and alleged) in introducing species into foreign environments, it seems safe to say that only the most callous individual would even consider the plan McDonough is promoting. It appears that McDonough is willing to open what could be Pandora's box for Florida's farmers in exchange for political clout for himself and his supporters. Such a plan would still sound ridiculous even if it were aimed at a destructive drug like crack cocaine. No matter how one looks at it, the potential benefits of a society free of illicit drugs simply do not validate a course of action that could destroy a large part of a whole region's economy. Genetic engineering is a promising technology, but it remains new and at this stage it simply makes no sense to attempt to control the habits of a species that is more susceptible to mutation that most other organisms. So much risked for a gain that would be, at best, debatable is simply not a good idea. The fungus should not be used. Updated 12:00 PM ET August 2, 1999(C) 1999 Michigan Daily via U-WIRE Scary Solution For Pot Plants - 8/03/99
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