With completion of the genome sequence of the tiny mustard plant Arabidopsis imminent, researchers began anticipating the logical next step. Meeting in the fall of 1998 and again in January 2000 under the aegis of the National Science Foundation, they drew up a plan called the 2010 Project, which, if successful, would catalog the functions of all of 'the weed's' 25,000 or so genes. Their goal was ambitious: "to understand every molecular interaction in every cell throughout a plant life cycle."1 By doing so, they believed any scientist could construct "a virtual plant ... growing on a computer screen, stopping the process at any point in that development, and with the click of a mouse, access all the genetic information expressed in any organ or cell under a variety of environmental conditions." In other words, the group hoped to assemble over the next decade a complete instruction manual and...

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