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Editors’ Picks: Triffids return to British TV

As Canadian government and industry officials attempt to get the genetically modified flax variety Triffid out of the system so shipments can resume to Europe, British TV viewers are being reminded of the sci-fi creature of the same name.

This week the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) concluded airing a new two-part made-for-TV adaptation of the 1951 novel The Day of the Triffids by British author John Wyndham.

The novel was previously adapted for a 1962 film starring Howard Keel and Janette Scott, and a 1981 BBC TV mini-series, as well as several BBC radio dramatizations.

The fictional Triffids are described as plants capable of aggressive and seemingly intelligent behaviour: they are able to move about on their three “legs,” appear to communicate with each other and possess a deadly whip-like poisonous sting that enables them to blind and kill humans and feed on the rotting carcasses of their victims.

Wyndham’s book implies they were bioengineered in the Soviet Union and then accidentally released into the wild when a plane carrying their seeds is shot down. Triffids begin sprouting all over the world, and their extracts prove to be superior to existing vegetable oils. The result is worldwide cultivation of Triffids.

In the new TV version, which BBC commissioned in 2008 for broadcast this year, the Triffids are cultivated as a source of alternative fuel called Triffoil. When a solar storm leaves most of the world’s population blinded, millions of the man-eating plants begin to roam Britain.

Cast members in the new BBC version include Dougray Scott (Mission: Impossible II, Desperate Housewives), Joely Richardson (101 Dalmatians), Eddie Izzard (Ocean’s 12, The Riches) and Vancouver-born Jason Priestley (Beverly Hills 90210).

“This story is so enduring — you can apply it to any era,” Priestley was quoted as saying in an interview on the BBC’s website.

“The political landscape of 1951 may no longer be relevant, but the abiding themes of the book still have great resonance. This story says that, if it is left unregulated, greed will bring us all down. As we were making this series, the world was disintegrating as the global economy collapsed. How’s that for topical?”

The real-life genetically-modified flax variety CDC Triffid was withdrawn from commercial distribution in Canada in 2001, but shipments of Canadian flax to Europe have been stalled since September 2009, when traces were found in some cargoes.

— The “Editors’ Picks” feature will highlight eyebrow-raising and unusual-yet-true news from the world of farming, as gleaned from various sources by the editorial staff of the Farm Business Communications division.

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