a story that brings together two of the most exciting things about our age: genetic engineering and the internet. The Glowing Plant Project is planning to ship 600,000 packets of the seeds for their glowing Arabidopsis plants, which will be the broadest ever distribution of a genetically-modified organism. There is nothing new about the technology of inserting firefly genes into plants, which has been around for 20 years. We know it works. What these guys did was to raise $500,000 with a Kickstarter campaign to get a commercial project going, come up with a cool logo, and generally use the internet's magic to turn a laboratory discovery into a mass-marketed product. If you don't feel like waiting for the mass seed mailing, due next fall, you can order a single plant now.
Which raises the question: should the government regulate this sort of thing? Right now in the US, regulation of plant research applies only to plants intended to be eaten. So anybody can insert any sort of gene into a non-edible plant and sell it to whomever. Is that scary? I don't find these plants scary at all. As I said, this trick has been done in labs many times already, with no pernicious effects. But if we put out minds to it we could certainly imagine lots of bad things you could do with this technology. Is that a problem that requires a law?