by Bill Nugent
Potatoes were introduced into Europe from South America in the 1500s by the Spanish. By the 19th century, potatoes had become the staple crop of millions of Irish farmers. Through selective breeding, a variety of potato called the “Lumper” was produced. This variety yielded more calories per acre than any other crop.
Evolutionary ideas were flourishing in the early 1800s through the writings of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Georges Cuvier and Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of the famous Charles Darwin). Evolutionists cited examples of selective breeding as “proof” that natural selection could cause new varieties and eventually new species to emerge. They did not as yet understand the limitations of selective breeding or the brick wall that such breeding hits when attempts are made to breed new species.
Science now knows that the DNA molecule in the nucleus of each cell acts as an information system that holds the ‘blueprint’ for the design of the organism. As varieties of potato are interbred the genetic information is shifted but not increased. According to an article by Don Batten, Ph. D., many hundreds of genetic mutations were studied at the biochemical level and none of the mutations caused the addition of specified complexity to the DNA. Genetic mutations virtually never add information to the DNA but merely scramble or delete preexisting information. Even the rare instances of natural genetic splicing are simply transfers of pre-existing genetic information from one organism to another.
Varieties of Irish potato such as the Lumper were bred for high yield. The entire energy of the plant was directed toward producing many large potatoes. This high yield came at the expense of other characteristics of the ancestral South American varieties. This redirection of plant energy to produce high yield came about because the genes for large potato production were concentrated in one variety. The genes that gave the plants resistance to the fungus “Phytophthora infestans” were apparently bred out.
When the fungus came in 1845, 40% of the potato crop was lost. The next year saw total loss of the crop. By 1847 even the seed potatoes held in reserve were gone. Out of a population of 8 million people, about 1 million starved to death. Another one and a half million people emigrated mostly to the United States.
The fact that selective breeding of plants reduces other desirable characteristics is now recognized by world agricultural authorities. Such authorities are now establishing seed banks to preserve the ancestral varieties of wheat, rice, etc.
The first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, gives the historical account of the creation. In the Genesis account, when God describes the creation of plants and animals it is followed by either of the phrases “after their kind” or “after its kind.” For instance in Genesis 1:11 it says “Then God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind‘” (NASB). This means that each species reproduces its own kind. It doesn’t produce a different kind. A lizard’s egg doesn’t hatch out a bird. No less than 10 times in the first chapter of Genesis alone do the phrases “after their kind” and “after its kind” appear. The phrases appear another seven times in later chapters in Genesis. These statements appear as a preemptive rebuke to the evolution myth which falsely claims that organisms can produce offspring of a different kind.
Many factors contributed to the tragedy of the Irish potato famine. There was careless plant breeding and over reliance on a potato variety presumed to be superior. In all, it was a very costly lesson on the limitations of genetic manipulation. Much of the information for this article was derived from “Potatoes and White Chimpanzees” by Grigg, R. Creation Magazine 26(4) 15-17 Sept.-Nov. 2004.