American – Chinese hybrid bur taken at the The American Chestnut Foundation annual meeting last fall in Rocket City. photo: Orin Langelle/photolangelle.org
Counterpunch, 7 March 2019
by Steve Taylor, GJEP
A group of scientists led by Dr. William Powell are attempting to get permission from Federal regulators to introduce unproven genetically modified trees into the wild. This will be an unprecedented release of GMOs with the ability to reproduce. This is a radical notion and the American Chestnut tree is being used a Trojan Horse in an attempt to engineer forests, and to wrest control from the power of evolution, god or whatever holy other has brought forth the natural world.
The American Chestnut Foundation, Powell and others hope to use genetic engineering to bring back to prominence their beloved forest icon, the American Chestnut, after its severe decline due to blight and over-logging. Such genetic manipulation comes with many scientific and environmental questions, concerns and dangers.
By forcing foreign genetic material into the genome of the wild American Chestnut tree, Dr. Powell hopes to make it blight-resistant. This goes beyond hybridization. While the consequences of introducing genetically modified organisms into the environment are both disconcerting and unpredictable, what is being eliminated is often overlooked.
Tinkering with life like this edits the results of billions of years of evolution, or as some would say creation. It is sometimes described as the colonization of the genome, or the commodification of life. It is also the ending of something. It is in a sense an ending of nature, wildness and providence.
Humans exert a dominant influence on our planet’s ecosystems. Most notably, our dependence on fossil fuels has so disrupted the planet’s life support systems that human survival is now in question. Predictions are so dire that planet-wide geoengineering projects are sometimes offered as ways to save the planet from global warming. The idea that technology may be the only way to save the natural world from wholesale environmental disaster underscores the level of complete dominance the human species is exerting on the planet’s ecosystems. Can humanity’s reliance on technology that has brought us to the brink of extinction also be our salvation?
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