Monday, October 27, 2008

I Hate Fruit Flies

Really I do. When I was doing my fresh-water minnow research in college I had to share the lab space with students doing their fruit fly research. The sickly smell of fruit fly food was enough to turn me off fruit fly research for life. Thankfully I did indeed manage to avoid the little fellas.

However, my distaste has nothing to do with a lack of knowledge about their importance when it comes to scientific research, unlike (apparently) Sarah Palin.
"You guys have heard some of the examples of where those dollars go," the fun Alaska governor said to the guys in the audience, acknowledging their media savvy about Congress members, who sometimes acquire public money for frivolous projects. "You've heard about the bridges. And some of these pet projects. They really don't make a whole lot of sense."

A troubled look crossed her face. "And sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good, things like ..." she grinned, shaking her head side to side, her voice rising to a facetious pitch "... fruit fly research in Paris, France." Feeling in tune with the guys in her audience, she added, "I kid you not."
Now, I had to read about this because it does seem odd for U.S. money to go towards fruit fly research in France...I mean we all know how much the U.S. doesn't like the French these days, right?

Apparently this is why the research is necessary:
A healthy industry, for sure, and one now threatened by the fruit fly. A University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources report declares that currently "the olive fruit fly occurs in at least 41 counties in California," adding that in other areas of the world where the olive fruit fly has flourished, the pest has wiped out 100 percent of some olive varieties. As Thompson knew, a 2004 USDA report did not mince words: "The recent establishment of the olive fruit fly ... in California has threatened to destroy the U.S. olive industry."
And the reasoning behind the location of the research:
In April, when Thompson won the dubious achievement, he responded: "The olive fruit fly has infested thousands of California olive groves and is the single largest threat to the U.S. olive and olive oil industries." He explained that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will employ a portion ($211,000) of the $750,000 award for research in France. "This USDA research facility is located in France because Mediterranean countries like France have dealt with the olive fruit fly for decades, while California has only been exposed since the late 1990s," he said.
I still maintain that Sarah Palin is not the right female for White House. This wee little fruit fly tale is another example of how she manages to consistently fail at intelligent assessments of a situation.


Habladora said...

It is also an example of how the McCain/Palin campaign has embraced spin over substance.

Palin wasn't concerned with the realities of the research, or with an honest evaluation of its usefulness. She's consistently playing to people's base instincts (in this case, their xenophobia and anti-intellectualism)- and calling it populism. McCain used to speak of the need for candidates to eschew 'agents of intolerance' - yet, with the robo calls, the flirting with fundamentalist pastors, the looking the other way of the racism of his supporters, and the 'othering' of liberals by Palin, wooing agents of intolerance seems to be this campaign's policy now.

Habladora said...

Oh, and from the Huffington Post:

It's hard to know where to begin deconstructing this statement. This was a speech on autism, and Palin's critics have pounced on the fact that a recent study of Drosophila fruit flies showed that a protein called neurexin is essential for proper neurological function -- a discovery with clear implications for autism research.

Do we know for certain which research she was referencing?

Mächtige Maus said...

It seems most articles are pointing out how Palin was not quite specific of which fruit fly research she was referring to, but the general thought is it relates to the olive fruit fly. Her best bet would have been not to bring it up at all.

Oh...and I shouldn't have watched the clip where she made her statement. Her tone annoyed me. Maybe I should have at least had my second cup of coffee.

Here is a glimpse at how the wee little flies are helping with neurological research. It's an old article, but still.