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Where Does Nature’s Wisdom Lie? by by R. Ford Denison

In biology, ecology, nature, research, science on August 28, 2012 at 21:56

 

From: Where Does Nature’s Wisdom Lie? by by R. Ford Denison, Berfrois, http://www.berfrois.com

My recent book, Darwinian Agriculture: How Understanding Evolution Can Improve Agriculture, asks where nature’s wisdom is to be found, but also whether nature can “lie” to us. In particular, can we mislead ourselves, when we try to apply ideas from nature to agriculture? I conclude, tentatively, that the overall organization of natural forests has not been improved as consistently, by any natural process, as the individual adaptations of wild species have been improved by natural selection. Therefore, it is probably safer to copy trees than forests. The available data aren’t entirely conclusive, however. Furthermore, natural communities and landscapes provide essential context for understanding the sophisticated adaptations of wild species. To predict whether something that works well in a forest will also work well in an orchard, we need a deeper understanding of both forests and orchards.

As well, biotechnology’s many promises will not be fulfilled anytime soon. Most of the “improvements” proposed by biotechnology have already been tested by natural selection, and rejected. For example, increasing the expression of a gene for “drought tolerance”? Tried and tested, but plants were less competitive under non-drought conditions. Turning chemical defenses against insect pests on all the time, even when pests are scarce? Tried also, but it scared away pollinators. The list continues.

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: Berfrois

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