Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Snorkel Rice

When I first heard the term Snorkel Rice, I wasn't sure if it was agriculture or an insult! Seriously, who among us hasn't called someone a huge rotting pile of snorkel rice? Just me? Okay, moving on.

As it turns out, snorkel rice is a genetically modified plant that has been bred to grow almost instantly when flooded by water. The plant contains a gene that instructs it to shoot its chutes above the flood, allowing it to survive the tortures of the Asian and African rainy seasons. The submerged plants can grow nearly 10 inches a day! Experts are very excited about the ramifications of this creation, believing it can go a long way toward ending worldwide famine.

Even as I reeled in the wonder of having a plant grow so quickly that you could actually *see* it, I began to wonder about the effects of this gene on the consumers. Is it possible that eating the rice from these magic plants could have unforeseen effects on the general population? Will teenagers be sprouting inches in their morning shower? That's a hyperbolic example, but I think I got my point across. If there's a gene in our food that causes some extreme reaction, how will that affect those who eat it, especially when it's a dietary staple?

This also leads me to ask some other questions. Does self-stretching rice have any advantage over permanently taller rice? Is there a point that the rice ends up getting too tall and causing issues? Lastly, how can we extend this feature to other items? I'd really like to see a hundred-foot Sweetpea.

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