On August 18, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a petition by researchers at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) seeking federal approval to release their genetically engineered (GE) Darling 58 (D58) American chestnut tree into U.S. forests. Researchers claim the transgenic D58 tree will resist the fungal blight that, coupled with rampant overlogging, decimated the American chestnut population in the early 20th century. In fact, the GE American chestnut is a Trojan horse meant to open the doors to commercial GE trees designed for industrial plantations.
The D58 would be the first GE forest tree approved in the U.S. and the first GMO intended to spread in the wild. (GE canola plants were discovered in the wild in 2010 but that was unplanned.) “This is a project to rapidly domesticate a wild species through genetic engineering and accelerated breeding, and then to put it back into ecosystems to form self-perpetuating populations—an intentional evolutionary intervention that has never been attempted before with any species,” explain scientists at the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA), which are nonprofits based in Washington, D.C.