A Job for 1,000 Postdocs

I almost choked on my tofu dog reading "Gene Transfer in Space."1 The article suggests that because soybean gene transfers performed on the ground have "an average success rate of 1:1,000," it is "obvious" that we should spend time, money, and effort pursuing more efficient gene transfers in space. Soybean seedling transformation would have to be--here it comes--astronomically less efficient to ever justify such an expensive solution. According to the Office of Management and Budget, nine

Elizabeth Leclair
Sep 3, 2000

I almost choked on my tofu dog reading "Gene Transfer in Space."1 The article suggests that because soybean gene transfers performed on the ground have "an average success rate of 1:1,000," it is "obvious" that we should spend time, money, and effort pursuing more efficient gene transfers in space.

Soybean seedling transformation would have to be--here it comes--astronomically less efficient to ever justify such an expensive solution. According to the Office of Management and Budget, nine shuttle missions are planned in fiscal year 2001, including seven to assemble and repair the international space station. The total budgetary allowance for the space shuttle program in the same year is $5.5 billion dollars, or roughly $600 million per flight to keep the entire shuttle program running. Only one flight of these nine is slated for microgravity research, which guarantees that any agricultural benefits from such research will be realized only very...