Well, I saw this coming. In the 1980s, when animal rights activists began to make news, I predicted that someday we will be hearing calls for “vegetable rights” and “mineral rights,” too (see my message from April 30, 2011). Judging from the story in the above link, that day is here. Here are my first thought in response to that:
1. We have been modifying plants, through natural selection, ever since agriculture was invented. Botanists, for example, will tell you that corn plants originally came from a Mexican grass called teosinte. That’s why I didn’t see it as anything new when some folks started protesting the genetic engineering of plants, claiming this was creating “frankenfoods.” To me it was a continuation of a trend that has gone on for more than 5,000 years. How can that be undone, without causing most of the human race to starve?
2. Plants are not totally helpless. Remember the late Harry Harrison’s “Deathworld,” a science fiction story about a planet where every living thing is trying to kill humans. That included plants and microbes as well as animals; on that planet, when weeds, thorns and poisonous vines got in your way, they grew there on purpose! And plants are just as capable of getting out of control as animals. Just think of tumbleweeds and mesquite in Texas, prickly pears in Australia, or water hyacinths and melaleuca in Florida. If they are pressed hard enough, I expect they will strike back.
3. And speaking of mineral rights, the inanimate earth can also do a number on us. I don’t have to tell my readers how an earthquake or a volcano can ruin your day.
For those who still think man is tougher than nature, check out my essay “Nature Is a Mother.”