Biocrops

that could win blue ribbons in twenty years if we don't watch out

By Bruce McCall|Sunday, October 01, 2000


Staged inside the world's largest butternut squash, itself a triumph of advanced biotechnology, Biotexpo 2020 literally dwarfed last year's bio-bombshell of giant bonsai trees with a cornucopia of innovations— heralding a future that will be, in one bio-booster's words, "all about tomorrow."

The bio-geniuses at SweetSciences Inc. titillated show attendees with their "Perpetua" chewing gum, a super-secret formula reportedly combining the fundamental genetic codes of sugar, peppermint, and latex rubber for locked-in flavor and ruminant pleasure limited strictly by the durability of the chewer's jawbone.

But that's not the only surprise about to spring from the soil. Anyone for decorator zucchini? Bio-Martha Labs, a division of Martha Stewart Inc., has just bio-designed a whole new line of that once-dowdy fruit in polka-dot, plaid, and Harris tweed, turning any ho-hum 40 acres into a tasteful riot of colors and patterns.

Meanwhile, a word to the biotechnologically wise: Watch Japan! A sensation of Biotexpo 2020, Kakajumi's "cotton-candy milkweed" prototype pod can launch 20,000 feathery spoors to drift with the breeze and be plucked from the air as sugary treats. Only the public-health technicality of treating thousands of sugar-nauseated schoolchildren seems to stand in the way of prompt commercial production.

And how's this for expanding biotechnology's borders? Nipponix BioSolutions introduced its intriguing new "Katch-a-Karp" flashing fish, radiating an all-organic, police-intensity pulsing red light visible underwater from a boat or dock as far as 100 yards away. Available so far in carp and catfish only— but self-illuminating swordfish are only months away.

Rocking Big Poultry at Biotexpo 2020 was a live demonstration of the first-generation flock of biotechnologically engineered suicidal turkeys. The smart birds' foolproof knack for doing away with themselves punctually in the second week of November is expected to slash Thanksgiving turkey processing costs by half— without harming their succulent flavor or carving ease.

South American killer bees, injected with Rottweiler genes to emit a fierce if tiny bark and chase away insect pests from precious crops? Don't bet against it, bio-beekeepers say, once a stout enough leash is developed.

Certain advances may, alas, forever elude biotechnology's grasp. The fusion of Kentucky sour-mash bourbon and Chinese silkworms, for example, has time and again fizzled, leaving the ancient vision of the lickable 100-proof necktie only a dream. And self-packing strawberries, bio-designed to include genetic material from migrant pickers— promising 15-second fill times per six-quart basket— have run smack into a brick wall of bio-legal resistance. The ACLU's lawsuit defending strawberries against low wages, long working hours, and OSHA safety violations could stymie production indefinitely.

What are biotechnology's outer limits? After this Biotexpo, one can only wonder.







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