Don’t Eat Your Peas

From “If Peas Can Talk, Should We Eat Them?,” Michael Marder, The Stone:

“Imagine a being capable of processing, remembering and sharing information — a being with potentialities proper to it and inhabiting a world of its own.  Given this brief description, most us will think of a human person, some will associate it with an animal, and virtually no one’s imagination will conjure up a plant.

“Since Nov. 2, however, one possible answer to the riddle is Pisumsativum, a species colloquially known as the common pea.  On that day, a team of scientists from the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Ben-Gurion University in Israel published the results of its peer-reviewed research, revealing that a pea plant subjected to drought conditions communicated its stress to other such plants, with which it shared its soil.  In other words, through the roots, it relayed to its neighbors the biochemical message about the onset of drought, prompting them to react as they, too, were in a similar predicament.

“Curiously, having received the signal, plants not directly affected by this particular environmental stress factor were better able to withstand adverse conditions when they actually occurred.  This means that the recipients of biochemical communication could draw on their ‘memories’ — information stored at the cellular level — to activate appropriate defenses and adaptive responses when the need arose.”

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