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The Kickstarter Culture Wars

Plans to grow genetically modified plants ignited a firestorm at Kickstarter. They shouldn’t have Whether lit by Fairies in a children’s book or special-effects magic in Avatar, the sight of plants glowing in the dark has a special charm. We respond to lighted plants with wonder and joy. So it’s not surprising that a plan to produce glow-in-the-dark plants proved wildly popular on Kickstarter, the crowdfunding website. In 44 days, the project raised more than $484,000–more than seven times the goal of $65,000–from 8,433 donors. Using genes from bioluminescent bacteria or fireflies, the project aims to create a glowing version of a small, inedible plant called Arabidopsis, often dubbed plant biology’s lab rat. The organizers then plan to move on to roses. To reward donors, they offered seeds, plants and glowing roses for different amounts of money. Although Kickstarter steadfastly maintains that it’s not a place to sell products, most successful projects attract donors who want a version of whatever the organizers are producing, whether that’s the DVD of a documentary film or a watch made from an iPod Nano. Thousands of people, it turned out, wanted seeds for glow-in-the-dark plants. The result was a culture war that has nothing […]

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