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Two Different Potatoes-Outline

wwu2's picture


For my paper, I am going to write about GMO. In this book, clearly there are two stances towards potato planting: one is pro genetic modified engineering (Will’s side), the other is traditional potato growing (Geek’s side). Therefore, I would like to discuss the questions: is the GMO good or bad? The first quote I picked illustrates the simplicity if applying technology to potato planting. Second one is about the complexity and potential problems of using traditional potato planting. And the third one is about Geek’s opinion on potato planting. I am going to compare and rethink these three major quotes, and it will lead to my thesis: traditional planting is better because it is the natural growth of products, and people will get to know the art of nature (the beauty of organic plants).


Quotes I picked:

            “ ‘Cynaco’s NuLifes,’ Will said. ‘It’s interesting. They genetically engineer the plant with a natural pesticide built right in. The beetles eat the leaf and die. They say you can reduce the chemical inputs by more than half.’


            ‘It’s safer than a pesticides… We can start small, do a couple of test fields, say, the ones closest to the house.’


            ‘Safer is better… We’ll turn over a new leaf.’


            ‘For a NuLife Enhanced, even.”

—Page 98


“Unlike grain, … which can be stored indefinitely, there is an art to storing potatoes. They come out of the ground at around fifty-five degrees and are transported to the cellar, where the temperature is slowly lowered, half a degree a day, until it reaches a careful forty-five. The breathing rate of the potatoes slows… there’s the problem with living things—they have a life span that cannot be exceeded.”

—Page 112


“When you plant the pea, it’s like downloading software. The pea unstuffs and decompresses into a complex set of instructions powered by the sun. This program allows the plant to create its won food, which makes it grow…. The pea trains the farmer, and the farmer trains the pea. The pea has leaned to taste sweet, so that the farmer will plant more of it.”

            “Genetic engineering is changing the semantics, the meaning of life itself. We’re trying to usurp the plant’s choice. To force alien words into the plant’s poem, but we got a problem. We barely know the root language. Genetic grammar’s a mystery, and our engineers are just one click up the evolutionary ladder from a roomful of monkeys, typing random sonnets on a bank of typewriters.”

—Page 124


“Diversity is inconvenient to mechanized farming. This is what happens when agriculture becomes agribusiness. When engineers replace poets, and corporations gain total domination over all our food and all our poems.”

— Page125


mpatny's picture

I think you have made a pretty bold claim by choosing which type of planting is better, but you did not specify anything about identity. How are you going to support your claim by the opinions of the two conflicting characters? I think the quotes you chose will work well with your point, but there isn't too much about identity in this paper.

rppatel's picture

I agree with Mpatny, in that it is bold to claim right off the bat that traditional is better. Are you going to use the textual evidence to support this claim? Maybe you can claim that by finding beauty in the nature it affects people's identities. For example Yumi's mom identifies so strongly with rembering her plants but Yumi's tie to the plants isn't as strong.

Anne Dalke's picture

I’m really glad that you are going to focus on an environmental question, since that’s the direction our course is now heading towards…though I’d like to nudge you away from a yes/no or pro/con question-and-answer (remember the quote I read from Ozeki in class last week?): "Agenda-driven fiction is antithetical to inquiry. Agenda-driven fiction has its mind already made up....Writing is how I think, how I interrogate the world, and the novel is my medium...It's a thought experiment....The novel is not, and should not be, a Trojan horse....”

Your task here is not to decide a debate, but rather to trace the complexities that the novel lays out, its refusal to take sides. Even Will is not entirely pro, and of course his wife has a very conflicted feelings about GMOs…search out the quotes where she is reflecting on what they should do, and let them guide you into some more complex statement about why this question is so vexed…

What has surprised you, in reading this novel? What have you learned about GMOs that you didn’t know before? Does the novel’s presentation of this agricultural practice intersect for you in any interesting ways with other texts we have read? Do you understand what genetic modification entails? Do you know what each word in that phrase means? (what its etymology is?)

Also to work on for Friday: a catchy title, and a logical structure to organize and hold your thoughts….