GMOs and the American Chestnut: Risky Business?

How far out on a limb would you go to bring back an icon of the American forest?

First, a Look at GMOs

Genetically modified organisms or GMOs can engender strong passions and stimulate spirited debate; at least they do in my family. Whenever we get together and the subject comes up, a lively discussion ensues, sometimes erupts, between my kids (well, kids to me even though they’re on the other side of 30) and me. To them, GMOs are plain bad.

The long-practiced art of artificial selection is one thing; but creating a transgenic organism by tinkering with its genetic makeup is, in their minds at least, something else entirely. Something that could unleash a vegetative (see here, here, here and here) or animalistic (see here, here, here, here and here) Frankenstein that could wreak havoc on the environment and possibly our food. Theirs is a sort of “Don’t mess with Mother Nature” imperative.

Besides, they continue, look what the Big Ag companies are doing with GMO technology. Producing strains of crops that allow farmers to use huge quantities of pesticides that poison the environment (see video) and our food and in the end only speed the evolution of pesticide-resistant superweeds (see here, here, here and here) and pests. (They can also turn the small farmer and the subsistence farmer into farmers with a bunch of dead crops, as this film about Peruvian farmers documents.

To me, the issue is not so black and white. We have been genetically engineering crops for millennia, albeit not using modern molecular biology but by crossbreeding and artificial selection. The methods may be different, but the result is much the same: an organism whose genetic makeup has been altered by humans to suit human needs.

Read the full post here: GMOs and the American Chestnut: Risky Business

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