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Column: No, we don't need glow-in-the-dark rose bushes

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opinion Worthington, 56187

Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

AUSTIN, Texas -- When asked what the world needs, people tend to go all gushy and offer up such fuzzy stuff as "world peace" and "more kindness."

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Yeah, yeah -- but get real. Let's talk practicality here. What the world needs is something tangible, a new whiz-bang product that will delight all of us and make the world a brighter place. And I know just what it is.

Ready? The world needs trees, shrubs, flowers, and other plants that glow in the dark. I don't mean glow dimly like a lightning bug or a luminous painting of Elvis on velvet, but a potted plant giving off enough light to read by. Wouldn't that be cool?

OK, actually it'd be silly. But ready or not, luminescent plants are likely to be the next grand contribution to humankind by the genetic tinkerers who brought us such advances as tomatoes implanted with fish genes.

This latest bunch of biotech Frankensteiners have given their mad science an oxymoronic title: synthetic biology. Their goal is to "create" new living things not found in nature, by inserting man-made "genes" into the DNA of say, a rose bush. Voilá! A plant that'll light up your yard at night.

Already, one of the plant tamperers has formed a corporation called BioGlow to commercialize such things. "Wouldn't you like your beautiful flowers to glow in the dark?" he asks with a maniacal fervor.

Uh...no sir. First, they're beautiful as is. Second, there you narcissistic bioengineers go again -- screwing with nature. This crew is recklessly spreading untested, synthetic organisms around the world with no idea of how they'll mutate in nature or what malicious, predatory organisms might result. That's not science. That's screwballism.

For more information on why a bit of caution and a little less hubris is warranted, contact Friends of the Earth: www.foe.org.

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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