Interstellar shows us that the main sources of food on Earth are being slowly wiped out by a disease they called The Blight. The solutions they try to enact are

  1. to grow more food to make up for what's lost
  2. to leave Earth.

But why not just cure The Blight? If it's incurable (even though they have decades to work on it) it's a big enough problem that you could justify using techniques like Hydroponics/Aeroponics, isolating the crops from others, or GM, modifying them to make them resistant to it.

Did I miss something saying why these techniques wouldn't work?

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    They are working on curing the blight. They have been for many decades. You can see them working on it at the bunker during the tour. They simply failed to cure it or work around it. The blight is the ice-9 of biology, it works on fundamentally different pathways (unspecified in the movie other than they involve the nitgrogen bonds) than aerobic life that is more efficient. Nov 18 '14 at 4:22

There was no explicit discussion of this issue in the movie. The closest it came was Professor Brand showing Cooper a lab in the NASA facility, where a scientist was examining dying corn plants, and telling Cooper that corn was doomed as well.

We can assume that curing the blight, or genetically modifying crops to resist the blight, had been tried and failed.

That leaves isolation of crops from Earth's ecosystem. Arguably, this was the point of moving into space -- creating a new "clean" ecosystem from carefully screened seeds and raw materials, which would not be contaminated by the blight. At the end of the movie,

this approach seems to have succeeded in the space habitat near Saturn.

The alternative is to build your ecology-in-a-can on Earth's surface. The atmosphere outside your habitat would no longer be breathable after the last of the wild plants died off, but it's a lot easier than hauling it out of Earth's gravity well into space.

The counter-argument might be that remaining on Earth's surface risks contamination by the blight, no matter how carefully the habitat is sealed; and if you must build a sustainable ecology-in-a-can, you might as well take yourself into space and start exploring the universe.

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    @PointlessSpike: Dramatic licence. It's much cooler to build habitats in space than on the surface of a desolate Earth. And to be fair, the planets on the other side of the wormhole are more promising than artificial habitats, so they want to go there eventually, which requires going to space. Nov 11 '14 at 12:30
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    I agree that from a fiction perspective, "screw the Earth, space is where it's at" is a tempting thing to think, but they went to such lengths to make the physics realistic, you'd expect the same diligence with the writing. It seems odd they'd go "Nope, can't cure it, can't be done IT'S IMPOSSIBRU, off to space!" Nov 11 '14 at 13:37
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    I think the line about the earth’s atmospheric composition was meant to emphasise the futility of combating the Blight. The Blight is described as thriving on nitrogen, which makes up 78% of the earth’s atmosphere. The idea seems to be that it’s much better suited to earth than both crops and humans, so there’s no hope of stopping it. Nov 13 '14 at 10:39
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    I don't know if this is supported in the film, but I thought they planned to leave Earth to find a new planet because space-borne habitats were not possible to create. The only possibility for a "clean start" was a new planet. The space habitat only became possible once Murph finalized the theory on gravity manipulation, which made space travel much easier.
    – Fatbird3
    Nov 18 '14 at 0:22
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    @Paul D. Waite in the movie, the Blight did not seem to build any biomass on its own - it acted purely as a disease/parasite requiring traditional plants to exist.
    – Alexander
    Dec 26 '19 at 19:51

The movie tries to avoid a lot of questions about the Blight issue. However, I think nothing supports the idea of blight as a "natural disaster". Remember that blight is attacking not only food providing plants, the Earth is about to lose its oxygen due to it, Murphs generation is predicted by Prof Brand (Amelias father) to be the last one surviving on earth as people will not only starve but also suffocate.

Now, seriously - dinosaurs did not suffocate, alright? A disaster like that will kill not only humans but just every single oxygen breathing animal - the entire fauna on the planet, an event singular in Earths history and as such plain obviously not a natural one. This is a seriously messed up planet, biosphere destroyed severly (yes, by humans) before Blight was starting to thrive so massively, toppling a millions of years old natural balance that controlled Blight previous to the events in the movie.

The movie tries to avoid these issues, tries to steer away from having to thematise those ecological-political topics for reasons that are impossible for us to know but if you count 2 and 2 together you realise this is not a natural disaster. It's a scifi movie that is however written in a way to avoid too obvious scientifical glitches and assuming earth would out of the blue experience loss of oxygen after stable millions of years would just be not very scientifical.

In a space station that supplies the plants with a healthy atmosphere as on Earth before its natural balance toppled, remedies for the plants will work again. On earth they did not (or not for long as the plants died in stages - Tom started to reglarly lose 1/3 of the corn harvest 20 years after the Endurance embarked on its journey). This is a development, it's getting worse step by step but yes - it's shown in the movie that they are working on means to control Blight as pointed out in the answer and comments above (NASA facility, the bio lab). Those means however can only slow the process down a bit and not for long.

  • I think this was the main problem I had with the Blight. It seemed so implausible. They (the writers) created this ecological disaster and then, instead of trying to solve that disaster they avoided the whole thing. It seems like bad writing to me. If it was me I would have gone for something plain and simple like global warming or an asteroid. Then you can say, "Oh well, better hurry into space". Apr 20 '15 at 7:55

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