The Allegheny Front is a public radio program covering environmental issues in Western Pennsylvania, Managing Editor, Julia Grant interviewed members of the STOP GE Trees Campaign about their opposition to Darling 58, a genetically engineered (GE or genetically modified) American chestnut tree. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) has petitioned the USDA to deregulate Darling 58 and plant GE trees throughout North American forests. The initial public comment period closed on October 19th. Below are excerpts from Grant’s interview with Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project, and BJ McManama of Indigenous Environmental Network.

For the full story visit The Allegheny Front

Restoring The American Chestnut With Genetic Engineering Splits The Conservation Community

The Allegheny Front 16 October 2020

Julia Grant

The American chestnut, once one of the most common trees in eastern forests, all but disappeared a century ago, when a blight took down about four billion of these giants. Researchers have developed a blight resistant chestnut using genetic engineering that they hope can be used to bring back this iconic tree. But some groups worry about the long term consequences of releasing a GMO tree into the wild.

Opposition to GMO Trees

It’s just so reckless,” said Anne Petermann, director of the Global Justice Ecology Project,“What’s the rush?”

Her group has developed a coalition of hundreds of groups worldwide opposed to genetically engineered trees. They say these trees, developed for industrial timber production, creates a monoculture that can displace people and native forests around the world, and can create problems in the ecosystem if they escape tree plantations.

For example, a freeze-tolerant eucalyptus for biofuels is being developed to survive in the southeastern U.S. But in places like California, eucalyptus is considered invasive and has become fuel for wildfires.

A Trojan Horse for More GMO Trees?

Some Native American groups see genetic engineering is another example of humans trying to dominate nature. Their ancestors used the chestnut’s bark to build longhouses, the leaves for medicine, and the nuts for flour.

We need to leave the forest alone as much as possible. The forest will recover — these ecosystems will recover if we quit taking things from these forests that we absolutely do not need,” said BJ McManama of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

*Note that these are excerpts taken from the story. For the full story visit The Allegheny Front

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