Russia’s new Lysenkoism
During the late 1940s and 1950s, a pseudo-scientific concept based on Marxist-Leninist ideology became internationally known as ‘Lysenkoism'. Lysenkoism was a neo-Lamarckian idea, claiming that in crop plants, such as wheat, environmental influences are heritable via all cells of the organism. Lysenkoism was applied to agriculture during the Stalin era with disastrous consequences. Despite the triumphs of modern genetics, and the disproval of Lysenkoism, recent years have seen a ‘re-thinking' of this doctrine in Russia. This disturbing pro-Lysenko movement, which is accompanied by a growing sympathy for Stalin, claims to have its scientific roots in modern epigenetics, specifically the heritability of variation by mechanisms other than changes in DNA sequence. Based on recent research on the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, its is clear that Lysenkoism has nothing to do with heritable ‘epigenetic' modifications. Biologists should defend science against ideological and political interferences.
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