Whack a Mole! For Real!

By Liz PeekFinancial Columnist

RD Opportunity: Whack a Mole -- For Real!

And you thought the U.S. was falling behind on RD! Just because China and India are producing tens of thousands of engineering graduates each year doesn't mean the United States is ceding research leadership. You want proof? Just this past week a company called Allergan introduced Latisse, a prescription drug that helps you grow lush eyelashes. That's right! For a mere $120 per month you can have terrific eyelashes.

Seriously, aren't there more important things for Allergan to develop?

I understand that the profit motive is the ultimate regulator of RD spending. And, hey, if you can make millions smoothing brows -- I say go for it! But, it seems to me there are other needs that could be addressed equally profitably, which brings me (at last) to one of my favorite topics - moles.

A few years ago one of my daughters, just in from school, announced that she had been studying molds in science class. I misheard her, and thought she said "moles." I was overjoyed; at last her school was directing all that bright young curiosity towards something useful-- the eradication of moles. As I waxed enthusiastic about the possibilities -- huge future royalties, new classrooms, expanded teacher salaries -- I noticed my daughter securing a distinctly greenish English muffin from the bread box, and eventually the misunderstanding was resolved. My disappointment lingered.

Really, how hard can it be to come up with a way to permanently whack a mole? We have rat poison and bug spray, but there is precious little on hardware store shelves aimed at eliminating the little buggers that every spring tear up lawns across the country. It is inconceivable to me that the recommended solution to this annual blight is those ancient and completely useless devices that attempt to stab a mole to death as it skitters along its tunnel. That's about as effective as going after a field mouse with a ski pole -- a tactic once adopted by my husband with predictably comic effect.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this, possibly to the detriment of my career. I've wondered -- could it be that Scotts, or the Lawn Doctor, has conspired to hush up important developments in mole control? Have they bought up the rights to mole extermination devices, to bolster lawn care revenues? After all, the only time I need remedial work on my lawn is when the mole population has finished devouring my neighbor's grass and shifts over to my place. Maybe they have squashed revolutionary mole vanquishers just like the oil companies banished the electric car -- or was it the car companies that did that?

I don't think we can blame PETA for the absence of progress in fighting moles. I've never noticed that crowd cozying up to moles, but maybe they just haven't felt the need to take a stand. They probably have a drawer-full of pro-mole literature at the ready just in case. Maybe they'll appeal to fans of "The Wind in the Willows" or try to find other stand-out moles that evoke our sympathy. That's going to be tough. If you Google "famous moles" you'll find that all the entries involve facial blemishes (the most famous being Marilyn Monroe's, apparently) or spies. There are apparently few furry moles of note.

So, I have to wonder. Why no progress on the mole front? I hope there are entrepreneurs out there who read this note, and who are spurred into action. Here's an opportunity-- develop a great mole trap -- before the Chinese do. After all, something has to take the place of all those financial products that we shipped out all over the world. Those turned out to be traps of a different order.