Viewpoint: ‘Circumventing evolution’ with genetically modified trees puts ecosystems at risk

The American Chestnut Tree
The American chestnut, once known as the “redwood of the east,” could grow to 80 feet tall. Now it is virtually extinct. Image: American Chestnut Foundation

That many forests in the United States are suffering health crises is not in question. Much of this troubling condition, however, has come as a result of human activities. The global trade in wood chips, raw logs and live trees has imported invasive plants, disease and insects. Over-logging and soil compaction make natural forest regeneration difficult. And acid rain from Midwest smokestacks kills off the mountaintop forests of the Northeast.

The use of biotechnology in forests, as the National Academies is examining, is yet another ill-conceived human intervention likely to add to, not alleviate, forest health crises. The body is debating the intentional release of trees genetically engineered in ways that could never occur in nature, with no knowledge of the long-term social or ecological risks.

The risks of tampering with the genes of trees are unknown and unknowable. Yet the GE American chestnut is planned for release into forests with the intention of contaminating wild trees with their engineered pollen. The goal: replace wild American chestnuts with engineered ones.

Related article:  'Please forgive me': Founder of Hope for Wholeness conversion therapy group now says he is gay

Attempts to promote forest health by circumventing evolution and genetically engineering trees, however, is bound to fail, with potentially irreversible impacts on the very ecosystems they ostensibly are intended to help. Any real strategy to address forest health crises must confront the underlying causes and include impacted communities in the decision-making process.

Editor’s note: Rachel Smolker is a co-director of Biofuelwatch and is on the board of Global Forest Coalition. Anne Petermann is executive director of Global Justice Ecology Project and coordinator of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees. Rachel Kijewski is a GE trees campaigner for Global Justice Ecology Project and a member of the Campaign to Stop GE Trees Steering Committee.

Read full, original post: The forests are in crisis but biotechnology is not the solution

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
ft covidresponseus feature

Video: Viewpoint: The US wrote the global playbook on the coronavirus and then ignored it

A year ago, the United States was regarded as the country best prepared for a pandemic. Our government had spent ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend