That new chestnut? USDA plans to allow the release of GE trees into wild forests

D. E. Davis,  The Hill,  2022.

In the 21st century, there are those who believe the trees can be resuscitated via genetic engineering (GE). In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just released a draft environmental impact statement and draft plant pest risk assessment that will allow the unrestricted planting of blight-tolerant GE chestnut trees on public and private lands. If approved, the tree would be the first genetically engineered plant released with the purpose of spreading freely into the wild. Although the agency is recommending the tree’s release into wild forests, they are also requesting public input regarding their recent decision to do so. (You can submit comments here.) The restoration of the American chestnut is a noble undertaking that certainly deserves our serious consideration and thoughtful deliberation. If the plan is accomplished successfully, the tree would improve forest health, increase biodiversity, and provide important economic benefits for local communities. However, as an environmental historian, I am deeply concerned that individuals endorsing the unregulated status of the GE chestnut have not sufficiently educated themselves about potential problems associated with genetically modified trees

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