Or, Has anyone heard of The Onion? Of course you haven’t. Dave and I are the only ones who know about it. (What an oddly reminiscent introductory trope?) Dave has a mandate that we meet a quota of Onion references. To do my part, and since I’ve been lagging behind, I offer this reprint from a few years ago. This one’s about “the biggest breakthrough in biotechnology since the breakthrough it fixes.”
A Texas A&M chemist works on the breakthrough.
The article is pasted, beneath the fold…
May 9, 2001 | Issue 37•17
COLLEGE STATION, TX-Agricultural scientists around the world are hailing what is being called “the biggest breakthrough in biotechnology since the breakthrough it fixes.”
On Monday, Texas A&M chemists unveiled Zovirex-10, a revolutionary new fungicide capable of halting the spread of a fungus unexpectedly spawned by a July 2000 breakthrough, an advanced soy hybrid that grows 10 times better in soil over-saturated with chemical herbicides.
The fungus, which, if left unchecked, would likely have destroyed 98 percent of Earth’s soy crop and wrought untold environmental havoc, made the latest scientific advance possible.
“It’s an extraordinary development,” said Dr. Nathan Oberst, project coordinator and the man responsible for both breakthroughs. “At the time, we thought the soy hybrid was a fantastic thing. When the resultant fungus started wiping out other soybean plants at an alarming rate, we thought we might have blundered, but now it’s clear that this potential global disaster was just the precondition we needed for a major leap forward.”
Oberst dismissed charges that the development of new biotechnological advances to counteract unexpected side effects of prior biotechnological advances constitutes a dangerous Moebius loop.
“It may seem dangerous to tinker with nature without knowing the long-term effects,” he said. “But without the threat of environmental disaster caused by the short-sighted unbalancing of natural forces, how are we to bring about positive change in the world around us?”
Oberst downplayed claims that if Zovirex-10 were to seep into the groundwater, it would kill off 70 percent of fish and aquatic plant life, poison 35 percent of the human population, and raise the temperature of the sea by seven degrees.
“If this is true, it shouldn’t be thought of as a disaster,” he said. “Modern science has a long, proven track record of correcting the mistakes it inadvertently unleashes on the world. I’m confident that if the worst ever came to pass, science would find some way to fix it. That’s what science does.”
According to Oberst, flawed and dangerous technological advances have helped broaden understanding in all fields of science.
“Just think about the hydrogen bomb,” Oberst said. “Not only was it a tremendous breakthrough in physics, it broadened our knowledge of everything from radiation containment to bomb-shelter construction to hair loss. Science has been coming up with breakthrough after breakthrough to fix the problems that the H-bomb has created. Without the H-bomb, we would know significantly less about the potential problems associated with the H-bomb.”
“People shouldn’t see man-made global disasters as a bad thing,” Oberst added. “They should see them as scientific breakthroughs waiting to happen.”