December 13, 2003
Pedantic Footnote II

Under the title 'Lefty denied tenure at Cal', Pathetic Earthlings links to an SFGate story about a controversial critic of biotechnology, denied tenure at Berkeley after his research was found to be (pick one) offensive to multinational biotechnology companies or scientifically shoddy.

I found this sentence odd:

Two years ago, Chapela co-authored a study published in the journal Nature that concluded that DNA from genetically engineered corn contaminated native maize in Mexico.

Why is the genetically-engineered grain 'corn' and the native grain 'maize'? They're the same thing! Using two different words makes the corn seem far more alien and intrusive. Paul Elias, "AP biotechnology writer", ought to be ashamed.

Of course, the English have traditionally referred to 'corn' and 'maize' where Americans say 'wheat' and 'corn', respectively. However, I don't think that the 'corn' in this passage can be wheat. Not only is such a usage unlikely in an American journal, but genetically-engineered wheat could hardly contaminate native corn in any sinister biotechnicological sense. The story makes no sense unless the 'corn' is in fact maize.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at December 13, 2003 09:41 PM