John McCain reached back into the presidential campaign on Wednesday to pull out a scientific critique that had first been made by his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, when she ridiculed funding for fruit fly research. In a late-October speech, Palin noted that the research was going on in "Paris, France" and added "I kid you not."
On Wednesday, McCain himself grabbed for the fruit-fly swatter at a press conference to unveil his new anti-earmark legislation.
After a long takedown of research into lobsters by the University of Maine that involves a "Lobster Cam," McCain, a Senator from Arizona, turned on the fruit flies, saying, "also, there's one in Paris that -- yes -- $212,000 for Olive Fruit Fly research in Paris, France."
During the campaign, Palin's criticism of fruit-fly research was heavily attacked by the scientific community, which argued that fruit flies, because of their brief life-spans, make up a cornerstone of scientific and medical research. In 1933, Thomas Hunt Morgan won a Nobel Prize for his work with fruit flies, which showed how genes are passed on through chromosomes.
Palin was considered at the time to have been scientifically freelancing, but McCain's comments today indicate that the objection to fruit-fly research came from the top.
The specific earmark in question was requested by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.). The money was for a lab set up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Europe to study emerging threats from insects. "The Olive Fruit Fly has infested thousands of California olive groves and is the single largest threat to the U.S. olive and olive oil industries," said Thompson. "The research facility is located in France because Mediterranean countries like France have dealt with the Olive Fruit Fly for decades, while California has only been exposed since the 1990s."
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