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The Botany of Desire

Somewhere between those two poles, all gardeners—indeed, all of us—stake out their ground, some of them, like Appleseed, leaning to the side of Dionysian wildness (he’d love this garden now); others, like the scientists at Monsanto, pushing toward the Apollonian satisfactions of control. (The lab coats would probably have liked the garden better earlier in the season, before all hell broke loose.) Still others are harder to place on the continuum: I mean, where exactly do you put the marijuana grower tending his hydroponic closet of clones—that Apollonian edifice dedicated to the pursuit of Dionysian pleasure? It’s a good thing one doesn’t have to take sides.

from Michael Pollan “The Botany of Desire”

 

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The Botany of Desire

Indeed, Ireland’s was surely the biggest experiment in monoculture ever attempted and surely the most convincing proof of its folly. Not only did the agriculture and diet of the Irish come to depend utterly on the potato, but they depended almost completely on one kind of potato: the Lumper. Potatoes, like apples, are clones, which means that every Lumper was genetically identical to every other Lumper, all of them descended from a single plant that just happened to have no resistance to Phytophthora infestans. The Incas too built a civilization atop the potato, but they cultivated such a polyculture of potatoes that no one fungus could ever have toppled it. In fact, it was to South America that, in the aftermath of the famine, breeders went to look for potatoes that could resist the blight. And there, in a potato called the Garnet Chile, they found it.

from Michael Pollan “The Botany of Desire”