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State of the Union and Plant Stress

Chuck Gasser csgasser at ucdavis.edu
Fri Jan 27 12:45:48 EST 1995

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:


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".

I have sent the following to the President (president at whitehouse.gov)
to educate him on the usage of the term "plant stress" by plant

>Dear Mr. Clinton,
>It has come to my attention that you have (probably inadvertently)
>propagated Ross Perot's misconception about the value of studying 
>"Plant Stress".  You noted in your recent "State of the Union" address 
>that such research would appear to be frivolous.  You are apparently 
>unaware of what the term "plant stress" means.  The stresses studied by
>researchers in this area include: flooding, drought, salt stress, heat, 
>and UV radiation.  I am sure that you can see that the agricultural 
>community may have more than a passing interest in how to mitigate the 
>effects that some of these ubiquitous environmental problems (or 
>disasters in some cases!) have on crop yield.  In fact, breeding for 
>flood and drought tolerance are critical aspects of ensuring sufficient 
>yield to farmers who grow their crops in areas with uncertain weather 
>(i. e. nearly all areas!).  It would be great if you could correct this 
>misstatement to the press, but please, in the future, do not continue 
>this misrepresentation of the vital work that has been funded in this 

I thought other members of the plant community might want to make their
views known to the President either through e-mail or some other

Chuck Gasser
Section of Molecular and Cellular Biology
U. C. Davis

csgasser at ucdavis.edu

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