We will be talking about the Potato in tutorial number three.
Read Chapter Four of the Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan Desire: Control / Plant :
The Potato (181 238)
planted a potato called “Newleaf” that has been genetically engineered (by the Monsanto
corporation) to produce its own insecticide.
if any Colorado potato beetles takes a nibble of a NewLeaf leaf is doomed, its digestive tract
pulped, in effect, by the bacterial toxins manufactured in every part of these plants
potatoes are grown not from actual seeds but form the eyes of other potatoes
food chain has been unrivaled for its productivity; on average, an American farmer today grows
enough food each year to feed a 100 ppl but this power over nature comes with price – modern
industrial farmer cannot grow that much food without large quantities of chemical fertilizers,
pesticides, machinery and fuels all expensive “inputs” that saddles the farmer with debt,
erodes soil its fertility pollute ground water, and comprises safety of the food we eat.
artificial selection: process of breeding plants and animals for particular traits
Some Questions for you to think about as your read:
1. What is genetic modification?
Genetic modification is the use of modern biotechnology techniques to change the genes of an
organism, such as a plant or animal.
Genetic modification is direct manipulation of an organism's genome using biotechnology. New
DNA may be inserted in the host genome by first isolating and copying the genetic material of
interest using molecular cloning methods to generate a DNA sequence, or by synthesizing the
DNA, and then inserting this construct into the host organism.
With genetic engineering human control of nature is taking a giant step forward
with GM , breeders can bring qualities at will from anywhere in nature into the genome of a
plant: from fireflies (quality of luminescence), from flounders (frost tolerance), from viruses
(disease resistance), and in the case of potatoes, from the soil bacterium known as Bacillus
2. Why does Pollan say monocultrure is Industrial agriculture's greatest strength and it greatest
Monoculture is the single most powerful simplification of modern culture, the key move in
reconfiguring nature as a machine, yet nothing else in agriculture is so poorly fitted to the way
nature seems to work. Very simply, a vast field of identical plants will always be exquisitely
vulnerable to insects, weeds and disease – to all the vicissitudes of nature. Monoculture is the
root of virtually every problem that bedevils modern farmer, from which virtually every
agriculture product is designed to deliver him.
3. What is saved seed?
Saved seed is a seed or other reproductive material (e.g. tubers) from openpollinated vegetables,
grain, herbs, and flowers for use from year to year for annuals and nuts, tree fruits, and berries
for perennials and trees.This is the traditional way farms and gardens were maintained. 4. What is hybrid seed?
Hybrid seeds are seed produced by crosspollinated plants or the genetically modified plants that
farmers can’t just naturally acquire the seeds to so generally have to buy them from corporate
What are Hybrid Seeds Exactly?
We are often asked this question. The easiest way to explain "hybrid seeds" to first understand
what is not a hybrid seed. You may notice that some plants mature earlier than others of the same
strain, or may have a slightly different colour. This is a clear indication that they are open
pollinated. If you grow their seed next year, you will pretty much get the same plant you had the
previous year. This is a great, costeffective way for you to select plants that do well in your
However, uniformity in disease resistance, date of maturity, and all physical qualities is
necessary for most market gardeners and useful for home gardeners with very limited space. This
uniformity is ensured by growing hybrid seed.
A hybrid is created by crossing two unique parents. Crossing involves taking the pollen from the
male and transferring it to the female. The first generation of offspring from this cross all look
and act the same. They also show what's known as hybrid vigour: these plants come out stronger
than their parents. But you can't plant their seed in order to raise these plants the following year.
The seed collected from a hybrid plant will either resemble one of the parents, or be sterile.
Throughout this website we have indicated whether the seed is hybrid or open pollinated.
Finally do some independent researches on the basic botany of the Potato (i.e. what does
the plant look like, what are its characteristics, etc...
Potato plant morphology:
- The potato plant is related to the eggplant and tomato
- It is a lowgrowing, branching herbaceous perennial herb with weak stems.
- Each leaf is divided into five to nine oval leaflets.
- The foliage is somewhat hairy and sticky.
- They bear white, pink, red, blue, or purple flowers with yellow stamens.
- In general, the tubers of varieties with white flowers have white skins, while those of
varieties with colored flowers tend to have pinkish skins.
- The fruit, an inedible green berry about ¾ inch (2 cm) in diameter, usually does not form
in cultivated varieties.
- The potatoes are large tubersfoodstoring bodies that grow from the end of an
underground stem, below the fibrous roots. Each tuber bears several buds (the eyes of the
potato) from which new plants grow.
- Potatoes are large tubers that grow from the ends of underground stems.
- The potato plant grows best in a cool climate, in soil that is well drained and rich in
- The seeds are cut pieces of tuber, each containing one or two eyes. The pieces are planted
12 to 18 inches