Into the Wild: GMOs head for the forest

L. Sharratt,  Sentinel,  2021.

Genetic engineering is set to leave the farm for the forest. After over twenty years of growing genetically engineered (GE or genetically modified) crop plants in North America, researchers are now proposing to plant GE trees in the forests of eastern US and Canada. This is a precedent-setting request that asks us to accept, even embrace, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the wild. The first genetically engineered forest tree is now being considered for release into the wild. The US Department of Agriculture is now assessing a proposal from university researchers to plant a GE American chestnut tree in forests. The researchers have genetically engineered the tree to tolerate the blight Cryphonectria parasitica that decimated American chestnut populations in Canada and the US in the 1900’s. This GE tree is engineered with a gene from wheat, key to creating the blight-tolerant trait, as well as genetic material from four other species: a plant related to mustard, two different bacteria, and a plant virus. Together, the use of this new genetic material has resulted in the “Darling 58” GE American chestnut tree.

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