Friday, October 30, 2015

Family Friday: Is there a life sentence for murdering plants?

According to the Daily Mail, I am a murderer.

Yes, dear, gentle, Tina Seward, wife, mother and Christian, stands accused, tried, and convicted of murder.

All because I am a plant eater.

This article in the Daily Mail online cites a study done by researchers at the University of Missouri that says that "plants can 'hear' themselves being eaten.

So, a carrot can hear the munch, munch of a rabbit using it for a midnight snack?

Well, not really.  At least, I don't think so.

The study discovered that plants can identify nearby sounds--such as the sounds of eating--and then react defensively.  

Specifically, the study followed the behavior of a plant called Arabidopsis, described as "a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard". The people doing the study placed caterpillars on Arabidopsis, then used a laser and a small piece of reflective material on the plant's leaf. Scientists could then measure the movement of the leaf in response to the caterpillar as the caterpillar chewed on the leaf.  (I assume that the caterpillars they picked had not yet had their lunch.)

The scientists then played back their recordings of "caterpillar 

feeding vibrations"
to one set of plants, but played back only silence to another set of plants. 

Later, at their next meal opportunity,

the caterpillars were allowed to eat on both sets of plants.
(Perhaps their caretakers realized that said caterpillars needed to gain some weight or be better nourished?)


during this meal, at least one set of caterpillars was disappointed and may have gone away with their appetite unsatisfied. 

Because the researchers discovered that the plants exposed to "feeding vibrations" produced what are called mustard oils, which is a chemical that caterpillars

do not like. 

However, plants exposed to other vibrations, such as wind or different insect sounds, didn't produce mustard oils. Conclusion: plants can "distinguish feeding vibrations from other common sources of environmental vibration."  In other words, the plants knew that they were about to be eaten and secreted the mustard oils in self-defense. 

Today, I made a smoothie with the following ingredients: one apple, one carrot, a handful of spinach, one banana, some yogurt, and milk. As I turned on the blender and listened to the sound of my smoothie being prepared, was what I heard the whirring of my blender as it grated and pureed the ingredients into a delicious drink made solely for my enjoyment?

Or was it, instead, the sounds of horrific screaming as the plants realized that they were spinning towards their inevitable doom?

None of the plants secreted mustard oils.  At least, not that I was aware of.  At least, I didn't taste anything that tasted like mustard oils.  So, it's possible that they were never aware of their ultimate fate. 

But does this mean that I will never be able to enjoy a smoothie again without feeling enormous guilt over the murder of defenseless, innocent plants that gave their lives so that I may be better nourished? 


Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

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