Fruit fly researchers hold on tight to your charges: Sarah Palin has it out for your favorite organism.
In a recent policy speech on special needs children the vice-presidential candidate disparaged a congressional earmark for “Fruit fly research in Paris, France,” adding incredulously, “I kid you not!”
It seems she was talking about a US government facility in France that studies fruit flies pestering the California olive crop—a decidedly more refined diet than the pungent goo consumed by Drosophila melanogaster, the famous lab workhorse.
I guess no one bothered to tell her that fruit fly research has led to numerous basic science discoveries, such as—oh yeah, the basis for heredity. Not to mention a potential treatment for fragile X syndrome, a major cause of autism, and insight into the brains of people with Down’s syndrome.
It may be easy for Palin to dismiss the insect—after all, it’s not too esthetically appealing. (Unless of course, you happen to work on it.)
At least one renowned fruit fly researcher isn’t impressed. Eric Wieschaus, a winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in medicine, endorsed Obama in an open letter signed by other Nobel prize winners. Maybe he wasn’t too keen on McCain’s similarly off-target remarks disparaging Grizzly Bear DNA research.