Friday 28 June 2019

buckeye state

Recommended by Digg, we really enjoyed reading this nuanced, thoughtful essay that explores the project to restore North America’s blighted chestnut forests (see also) by creating a genetic hybrid whose DNA contains material from wheat that makes it resistant to the fungus that wiped out the trees.
Given how some of our exuberance to adopt GMOs was misplaced—and conversely fears over it, it is especially vital to get the science right before releasing something synthetic into the wild as trees not thrive outside of our laboratories, fields and plantations, they are also a vital part of the landscape and ecosystem, host to their own particular constellations of Nature. What do you think? Testing is extensive and circumspect and well worth considering all the trials conducted and considered but one in particular stands out: tadpoles fed with either natural or transgenic chestnut leaf litter thrived equally well, but grew at nearly twice the rate of their siblings that had to make due with a diet of maple and beech leaves—their only option since the chestnuts disappeared a century ago, suggesting that the ecosystem is missing these magnificent and useful trees far more than we can appreciate.