The American Chestnut Foundation is leading efforts to introduce genetically engineered (GE) American Chestnut trees back into the eastern North American deciduous forest ecosystem.
The native tree (Castanea dentata) was nearly obliterated by an imported blight during the first part of the 20th century. It was a crucial part of the forests ecosystem which stretched from Maine in the U.S.; south through the Appalachians and into Missouri; throughout much of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, the Virginias, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama. This forest also is found in Southeastern Canada including Quebec and Ontario.
The Campaign to STOP GE Trees, in collaboration with Global Justice Ecology Project is developing a major campaign to challenge the introduction of genetically engineered American Chestnuts into these ecosystems.
Read a fact sheet here.
The American chestnut tree reigned over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Florida, and from the Piedmont plateau in the Carolinas west to the Ohio Valley, until succumbing to a lethal fungus infestation, known as the chestnut blight, during the first half of the 20th century. An estimated 4 billion American chestnuts, up to 1/4 of the hardwood tree population, grew within this range. Source: American Chestnut Foundation
While lauded in many quarters as a step toward “bringing back the native forests,” there are critical reasons to believe that the introduction of GE American chestnut trees is a dangerous practice and may lead to further demise of ecosystems, the wildlife that depends on them, and ultimately human well-being. In their October campaign appeal, the American Chestnut Foundation may have let the real cat out of the bag, or revealed the camels nose under the tent–funding for research and introduction of synthetic trees into forest ecosystems.
Excerpts from the appeal letter from American Chestnut Foundation, October 2014
As important as the American chestnut is to our ecosystem, its successful restoration will have an even greater significance. We believe our model can be applied to other endangered trees such s the ash, elm, and hemlock. Our continue success will help ensure that other trees under grave threat of annihilation will also be saved.
Our scientists, in partnership with many universities and non-profits, are using the best tools available to advance our American chestnut breeding program. We are using cutting edge technologies to develop genetic makers for blight resistance, hypo virulence strategies, and advance screening techniques for ink disease. Only through science can we successfully restore this iconic species.
Betsy Gamber, Interim President and CEO
Kim Steiner, Ph.D Chairman of the Board of Directors
Read more about GE Chestnut work here.
We know that the ultimate achievements of these programs will further institutionalize the commodification of forests and forest products, turning more of our unprotected natural resources into short term profits for industry that considers the environment an externality. We want you to know this as well. Read more about GE Trees and the STOP GE Trees Campaign.
We intend to stop this and we need your help. In the coming weeks and months we will be posting here at Climate Connections news and maybe an occasional fundraising appeal to support our work. We will work to keep ourselves, our partners, and our readers educated and informed on these critical forest and ecosystem issues.