posted on Jul, 31 2005 @ 11:00 PM
It's not midnight yet in my time zone...hope this counts...and I hope I am posting in the correct location...
Row upon row of soldiers marched toward the distant horizon, dressed in green and tan, standing straight and tall in the blistering late-July
sun. At least that was the way Mark Anderson liked to think of them, as he drove his pickup down the country road that cut through the two sides of
Agricultural Experiment Station 176. His father had run the station since Mark’s childhood, and Mark was helping out now that he’d finished his
Reserve duty in Iraq.
Mark’s job was to check the progress of the new test varieties and to collect samples at various stages of growth for analysis at the local
agricultural university. The station was trying several promising new varieties, and most of the test plots were performing well. There had been
high hopes in particular for new variety GM-05L, a genetically modified field corn specially designed for its large yields, high protein cornmeal, and
resistance to pests. He parked the truck in front of the GM-05L plot and headed for the back fence to check the corn at Bill Hathaway’s farm.
An initial controversy had erupted over the addition of GM-05L to the station’s test plots. A pure foods group called “The Natural Farm
Alliance” had staged a protest, but discussion at the Public Concern Meeting revealed that the only farm in the area that was close enough to be
affected by cross pollination belonged to Bill Hathway. Bill didn’t seem to be concerned by the threat of the genetically modified corn ruining his
crop, but at the NFA’s insistence, had agreed to be part of a monitoring program set up by the university to evaluate the effects of the GM-05L on
his crop. Unable to ignite any further interest in the GM issue, the NFA had reluctantly retreated to a different community, leaving the station and
Bill to plant their corn.
Late spring had passed, and early summer, without further incident. Mark had checked Bill’s corn periodically, and had not noted any ill
effects. The nonhybrid plants, which Bill called “Hershel 1925” after his great-grandfather, were taller and more thinly spaced than the hybrids
on the station, but the stalks were hearty and the ears seemed to be maturing nicely.
The the first sign of anything unusual came on that day when Mark had visited to Bill’s field in late July. He hopped back over the fence to
check the GM-05L. The east side of the field he’d checked earlier in the day had seemed normal, but the west side of the field, the side that was
separated only by a fence and dirt tractor trail to Bill’s farm, was anything but normal. The stalks were dense and green, with no sign of distress
from drought or disease. Mark snapped off an ear and shucked it. He stared at the ear. Where there should have been plump rows of kernels, there
was only a smooth fat cob. There were no malformed kernels. There were no widely spaced kernels. There were simply no kernels. He snapped off
another ear. And another. After a few minutes he stared back down his path in disbelief at the pile of smooth, kernel-less cobs littering his path.
He pulled out his cellphone and dialed his father’s office. “Dad, you’ve got to come see this.”
Mark’s father drove up a few minutes later. He examined the the pile of smooth corn cobs Mark had tossed in the bed of the truck.
“Now that’s odd,” he said.
Frenzied activity followed at the station and the university. Tests, samples, more tests. Head scratching. Head shaking. Eyeglass wiping. Sighs.
Several weeks later Mark’s father drove up to the same spot where they’d first looked at the GM-05L, and walked over to lean on the fence
next to Mark.
“Got the results from Bill’s corn.” His father said after a few minutes, then paused again for effect.
“And?” Mark said, anticipating some grand revelation of corn genome mutation and hybridization. His father always did the pause when there
was a good story to follow it.
“Just corn,” said his father with a smile.
Mark stared at him in disbelief. “Nothing special? No mutations? No modifications?”
His father bent down and pulled a stem of timothy grass. “Nope,” he said as chewed the end of the stem of grass. “Just corn. Strong
Mark’s ears perked up. “What do you mean? Strong corn?”
“It’s completely resistant to hybridization and mutation.”
They stared across the fence at the Hershel 1925.
“The big companies will try to buy him out, or worse, if they find out about it, won’t they?” Mark said.
“I doubt it,” said his father. “Wouldn’t be much interest in it. It’s fairly low-yield, and since there’s nothing special in the
genes...” he shrugged. “The problem will be assumed to be a flaw in the GM-05L.”
He handed Mark the weekly farm report. “I wrote up a recommendation and sent it to the university. Here’s the final report on
Mark read the terse report and laughed.
GM-05L. GM variety designed for high-protein meal, high yield, pest resistance. Test plot provided mixed results. Recommend planting fields widely
separate from traditional varieties for best yields. Not recommended for Sumter County.