Spud History

March 17, 2009

I’ve been reading the comprehensive work of Luther Burbank, the early twentieth-century plant breeder, it’s a vivid reminder of how, as the subtitle of Plant Breeding puts it, How Plants are Trained to Work for Man. The potato, which used have seeds on the outside of it, is a classic example. Burbank writes, “Years of cultivation have removed from the potato the necessity of bearing seeds for the preservation of its race.” In other words, once humans took over the task of preservation, the tater became for us a ball of clay. “The potato plant,” Burbank goes on, “so certain now to reproduce itself through subdivision of its tuber, so reliant on man for its propagation, has little use for the seed upon which its ancestors mostly depended for perpetuation before man relieved it of its burden.” This simple observation should give us pause when we claim that we want our food today to be “all natural.”

One Response to “Spud History”

  1. Beth Aaron said

    The idea that potatos or any other living thing in nature, “needs man,” is absurd . In the scheme of time on earth, considering that this continent was shared by billions of species in peril now from our medling, tinkering, profit driven industrialization, man has done more harm in the short span of modernity , than any other species we co-exist with.

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