Regulation and anti-GMO activism: Roadblocks on the way to saving the American chestnut tree

American chestnut allen breed ap

In traditional plant breeding …. farmers …. cross varieties with desired traits …. and select promising mixtures for sought-after qualities ….

[T]he process is slow and somewhat disorderly. [Herbert Darling, an engineer in Western New York,] doubted such methods would ever produce [an American chestnut] tree as good as [the wild one on his property]. “I thought we could do something better,” he told me.

Genetic engineering means …. [s]pecific genes can be selected for particular purposes, even if they come from unrelated species, and inserted into another organism’s genome. (An organism with a gene from a different species is “transgenic.” More recently, scientists have developed techniques for editing a target organism’s genome directly.)

Related article:  Ghana’s parliament gives GMO crops a boost

The technology …. seemed perfectly suited, [State University of New York researcher William] Powell thought, for the American chestnut, which he calls “almost the perfect tree” …. needing only one, very specific correction: blight resistance.


In 2013, [the researchers] announced their success …. 109 years after the American chestnut blight was discovered, they had created a version of the tree that appeared to defend itself, even when hit with a huge dose of blight fungus.

Such results may reassure regulators. They will almost certainly not placate activists who oppose genetically modified organisms.

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