28 Oct

Sarah Palin and the olive fruit fly research

last week, Sarah Palin gave her first policy speech, urging the federal government to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Along the way, she too attacked science earmarks by claiming that the shortfall needed to fully fund the act was less money than was allocated to projects that have “little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France.”

Fruit flies can be made to seem like a silly thing to spend money on. But Palin was referring to research at a lab in France supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The subject is the olive fruit fly, which threatens the California olive industry. The U.S. is working with France because that nation has dealt with an olive fruit fly infestation for decades, far longer than California.

Maybe Palin also should have been told that a University of North Carolina fruit fly study last year demonstrated that a protein called neurexin is required for nerve-cell connections to form and function correctly. That discovery may lead to advances in understanding, among other things, autism, one of the childhood disorders that has been stressed by the McCain-Palin campaign.

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