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State of the Union and Plant Stress

Leonard N. Bloksberg bloksber at pilot.msu.edu
Mon Jan 30 11:48:00 EST 1995

In Article <199501270111.RAA25997 at ucdavis.ucdavis.edu> "csgasser at UCDAVIS.EDU (Charles S. Gasser)" says:
> The State of the Union Address delivered by President Clinton on Jan. 23,
> 1995 included the following:
> > For years, Congress has concealed in the budget scores of pet
> > spending projects -- and last year was no different: A million
> > dollars to study STRESS IN PLANTS, $12 million for a tick-removal
> > programs that didn't even work. Give me the line item veto and I'll
> > save the taxpayers money.
> (emphasis is mine)
> The full text of the speech is available at:
> ftp://fwux.fedworld.gov/pub/w-house/0125-13.txt
> This comment appears to be a repetition of an error which Ross Perot made
> in his campaign where "stress in plants" was interpreted
> anthropomorphically.  That is, Mr. Perot followed his initial comment on
> this with something like "why should taxpayers care whether plants feelings
> are hurt".
> Chuck Gasser
Thanks for the response, but I fear the problem may run deaper and farther 
back than Ross Perot.  Over the past 15yrs that I can recall, virtually every 
president has heckled some aspect of plant agricultural research as an "easy
way to cut fat from the budget", or a reason for a line item veto.
Be it Blueberry research or plant stress, our work has all too often been 
mis-understood and mis-represented in the press and Washington.  Food, 
shelter, clothing, and transportation are basic needs.  
I don't need to convince any one here of the importance of our profession in 
supporting the food and clothing industries, but all of us obviously need to 
do a lot more to convey this to our students who will vote for and run for 
elected office in this country.  
Most high school and college students get their only biology from a 
zoological perspective.  They don't learn that plants matter, and plants just
don't have the cute appeal of kittens or drama of lions, to get noticed.
The connections between the biology in the classroom and the biology of our 
daily life, apparently, are not being made.
As long as lawyers think that food grows in shrink wrapped packages,
and clothes are made only in mills, all our letters will be a difficult game
of catch-up.  There is a reason for breadth requirements in undergraduate 
curiculae, and I hope that when I get a faculty possition I will be able to 
contribute to increasing understanding of our work as well.
Leonard N. Bloksberg
bloksber at pilot.msu.edu

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