Many of you are already aware that ongoing chestnut restoration research at the State University of New York Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) involves a transgenic technology in which a single wheat gene is inserted into an American chestnut. This gene enables the American chestnut to tolerate the fungus that causes the blight, resulting in a tree that is 99.999% American chestnut. Gabriel Popkin, a top notch science writer, took over a year to look at the key issues and the quest to save the American chestnut from extinction. His article “Can Genetic Engineering Bring Back the American Chestnut?” appeared in the NY Times on April 30th.
ESF’s breakthough discovery is embodied in the blight tolerant Darling 58 American chestnut. After years of research and environmental testing, earlier this year, ESF applied to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to allow the Darling 58 tree to be used for restoration plantings outside restricted orchards. USDA/APHIS’s review will include a 60 day public comment period. The comment period will open later this year. It is open to everyone, yet the regulators will place a great deal of weight on the safety and efficacy of the tree, by focusing on comments from the scientific and technical community, as required by statute.
Jim Searing, PA/NJ Chapter Vice President and a member of the TACF Science and Technology Committee, has been working with others from across TACF to reach out to the scientific community and environmental and scientific organizations who understand the importance of restoring this tree to eastern forests. As soon as USDA/APHIS opens the public comment period, both TACF and the chapter will be communicating with our members, volunteers, orchard owners and people who have expressed support for our mission with information on how you can participate in the public comment process.
If you have questions, or if you have a scientific background in forests, genomics, or ecology and would like to participate in the public comment period, please email Jim Searing at firstname.lastname@example.org