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Return of iconic American chestnut with help of GE calls for celebration

| July 8, 2014
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

If the greatest living American were a tree, it would probably be the chestnut. In the first half of the 20th century, however, the American chestnut fell victim to a fungus unintentionally imported from China, and the tree that once dominated the forest canopy of the eastern U.S. all but disappeared. Now it is on the cusp of a comeback, a testament to America’s scientific ingenuity.

Plant scientists have found a way to develop a chestnut tree that fights off the fungus. Borrowing a gene from wheat, they created a strain that produces a substance that neutralizes the fungus’s lethal acid. Will this plan cause an outcry among the anti-GM activists, the ones who are trying to keep GM foods off grocery store shelves? Will they use their familiar assertions about “dangerous side effects” to try to stop “Frankentrees”?

But that controversy is years away. Until then, the only proper response to the incipient return of this American icon, which once numbered 4 billion in the eastern woodlands of the continent, is celebration. Straight and durable, the American chestnut tree stands — or will soon again — as evidence of the benefits of genetic engineering.

Read the full, original article: The Tree That Made America

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