Fruit Flies Shouldn't Be Sarah Palin's Punching Bags

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During a speech in Pittsburgh last week, reports that Sarah Palin took another swing at earmarked spending, giving a specific wink towards “fruit fly research in Paris, France!”

Palin was referring to money secured by California congressman Mike Thompson for the study of the olive fruit fly, according to Salon. The Alaska Governor opted not to tell the audience that the flies have been infesting olive groves for decades in Mediterranean climates (hence research in France) and more recently have started affecting crops in California. Thompson was adamant about his decision to fund studies of the pest, which he called “the single largest threat to the U.S. olive and olive oil industries.”

Palin may attack the program as frivolous, but fruit fly testing has proven indispensable in genetic research (it was through fruit flies that we discovered how chromosomes determine sex, for example), and it’s also helped scientists better understand autism, an issue in which Palin has repeatedly shown interest.

It’s also worth noting that just a few months ago, Palin herself had pushed for earmarked money to study, among other things, the mating habits of crabs. That study seems less ridiculous when revealed that the money would be used to research “Bering Sea crab productivity and sustainability as necessary to restore crab stocks.”

Attacking fruit fly and crab studies could make for a cheap political point in front of audiences, but a little more information shows that kind of research deserves respect.

Image courtesy of shioshvili, licensed under Creative Commons.

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