Below are excerpts from the 3 November 2020 publication in BM Global News. For the full story click here.

Biotechnology May Derail Natural Initiatives

Anne Petermann wrote in the Scranton Times-Tribune that planting these genetically altered trees opens the door for other risky genetically engineered plants. The fact is a wild tree cannot be replaced by a genetically altered facsimile. Peterman says this is “not restoration, but an uncontrolled experiment with our forests.

It is impossible to have the American chestnut trees in numbers that were living in the early 1900s. However, there are other areas of research currently underway to help the species recover. The first is breeding for resistance. Researchers have experimented with crossbreeding Chinese chestnut trees with the American chestnut.

However, the Chinese chestnut is much shorter and spreads wide instead of going tall and straight. While the process has been slow, The American Chestnut Foundation has had some success in developing a hybrid that is 15/16 American chestnut with selection for resistance and form. They are boosting seed production of a line of trees that appear to be blight-resistant to plant at test sites.

Another line of research has been aimed at lowering the virulence of the fungi. Experiments with infected European chestnut trees show the fungi had developed hypovirulence or had become less toxic to the trees. Researchers found double-stranded RNA within the fungi they later discovered was a virus. The virus caused the fungus to become less virulent.

This treatment has shown some promise in Europe and Michigan. Unfortunately, it has not had the same success along the eastern shores of North America. Researchers have been able to therapeutically treat individual infections, but using this strategy at a population level depends on nature. Petermann believes the genetically altered trees threaten to derail the reintroduction of natural trees.

For the full story visit BM Global News.

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