John McCain has displayed spectacular ignorance of science during this election campaign, first when he ridiculed spending on understanding bear genetic diversity and then when he called a request by Adler Planetarium in Chicago to replace its "overhead projector" an example of pork barrel spending.
Now Sarah Palin has gotten into the act, by criticizing funds for a fruit fly study in France. But as my colleague Martin Enserink points out in a post on Science's online news service, ScienceNOW, the study has considerable merit--and could help California's fly-plagued olive industry. The link to Martin's story, here, is free for four weeks, and here are a couple of key paragraphs to get you started:
PARIS--Coming from Sarah Palin, it sounded like the ultimate folly: U.S. taxpayer money funding a study of fruit flies in Paris, France. But scientists jumped to the defense of the work that the Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate derided as wasteful on 24 October during a speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The studies, actually carried out at a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) laboratory near Montpellier, 750 kilometers south of Paris, may help protect California olive trees from a serious pest, scientists say.
Palin's example came from the Web site of Citizens Against Government Waste, a private group claiming to fight government mismanagement that awarded Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA) a "French Kiss Off Award" in April for obtaining $211,509 for research on the olive fruit fly (Bactrocera oleae). As some bloggers were quick to point out, recent results from studies on other fruit fly species may help scientists understand autism, a disease Palin mentioned in her speech because her nephew has it. But the Thompson earmark is for the European Biological Control Laboratory (EBCL), administered by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), which studies ways to control invasive species in the United States by using their natural enemies.
Read the rest at the link--and don't forget to vote for and not against science on November 4.
Photo: Nicolas Gompel and Benjamin Prud'homme
More on the fruit fly fracas: Can be found courtesy of the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, and a post by ace tracker Boyce Rensberger.
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