“If you don’t let out the steam they explode,” Maynard explained, slitting three chestnuts with a pocket knife before putting them in the lab microwave. I asked if I could try a transgenic one, but Powell said he’d have to get FDA approval first. The resulting treat was starchy, with the texture of a chickpea, but a little more buttery. (Powell says they taste better when actually roasted, but the lab did not have an open fire handy.)
The team has created transgenic chestnut trees that use a wheat gene to fight blight. The trees are being grown in labs and test sites, and the team may soon seek federal approval to set them loose in forests.
The project has drawn mixed reactions. On the one hand, the team aims to restore the traditional, natural ecosystem of the east coast. On the other hand, they’re trying to do that through genetic modification, a process long reviled by environmental activists, even though the science suggests the biotechnology is perfectly safe.
“No one’s ever used the tools of genetic engineering to try to help the environment, and that’s what we’re doing here,” says Powell. “A lot of people have a knee-jerk reaction: GMO means bad, without even thinking. So we’re going to have to challenge people to think about it.”
We are a broad-based coalition representing the entire American agriculture food supply chain – from farm to fork. We are committed to increasing the public’s understanding about the science and safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and advocating for science-based policies that keep food affordable for every American.