A Rose by Any Other Gene: Why Science and Free Markets are Awesome

Food giant Monsanto is not exactly a popular company. Their work with genetically-modified foods remains controversial, as does their use of the intellectual property system to patent seeds and sue other people for using them within permission. But even if you think the company is basically run by mad-scientist supervillains, you have to admit that some of the technologies they’re coming up with are pretty cool. Their latest innovation is a new technique to prevent roses from wilting and drying up after they are cut, for which they have filed a patent application.

The idea relies on the use of special genetic molecules called RNA that are put into the water in which the cut flowers are placed. The RNA then attaches itself to the plant and interferes with its ability to generate the chemical that causes rotting and decay. Hey presto! You’ve got indefinitely fresh flowers. It should be noted that the genes of the flowers themselves are not permanently altered in this process, distinguishing it from the genetic modification of food. Only the way in which the genes function with respect to releasing chemicals is altered, not the genes themselves.

Preserving flowers longer may seem like a superficial thing to focus on, but it’s actually a pretty big deal. The florist industry employs some 84,550 Americans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, earning combined annual wages of $1.7 billion. Imagine how much more efficient and profitable that industry could become if they didn’t have to worry about flowers rotting on the shelves. Think of the reduced cost of transporting flowers from their native habitats to florist shops around the world. If this technology becomes readily available, every wedding, funeral and Mother’s Day is going to become a lot less expensive, and probably a lot more spectacular to look at.

Since people aren’t eating flowers, anti-GMO activists should have no reason to protest this technique, as there are zero health concerns. It is conceivable, however, that a similar technology could be applied to food sometime in the future. The ability to prevent fresh fruit and vegetables from spoiling could go a long way towards eliminating global hunger, provided of course that there is nothing harmful to humans in the technique itself. Since it only involves inhibiting a rotting chemical, though, it seems unlikely to cause any problems.

I highlight this technology as another example of how innovation can make people’s lives better, raise the standard of living, and increase global wealth. While I personally object to Monsanto’s use of intellectual property to sue hapless farmers, I can’t help but marvel at technological breakthroughs like the wilt-less rose.

Right now, breakthroughs like this happen in spite of regulation, taxes and general government meddling. Imagine how much faster and how much more prevalent they could be in a truly free market, where ideas are rewarded for their merits to consumers rather than their creators’ ability to lobby federal bureaucrats. It’s an exciting world out there right now, and no one knows what the future will bring, so long as we allow creators to create and consumers to consume unhindered.

This article originally appeared on Conservative Review.

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Logan Albright

Logan Albright is the Head Writer and Sound Engineer at Free the People. He is the author of Conform or Be Cast Out: The (Literal) Demonization of Nonconformists and Our Servants, Our Masters: How Control Masquerades as Assistance.

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