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One would be a better simulation technology, so that we could simulate the gene sequences on a computer. Two would be a bio printer or something similar, so that we could print a leaf and test realistically the sequences on the leaf [instead of having to wait for a whole tree to grow]. Or, third would be some way of doing gene therapy on trees and adjusting them in situ and using that to change their DNA. We do need some developments in one of those before we will be able to really take on big trees.

In preliminary calculations, you figure that a glowing tree that covers about 1, square feet would cast as much light as a streetlight. It will be a very different type of lighting effect. Our lighting will be much more diffused and we think much more beautiful. We are focused on executing on the things that we promised our Kickstarter backers. So, we are doing the work, getting the lab set up, ordering the DNA and starting to transform the [ Arabidopsis ] plants. You and your colleagues promised to send each supporter, of a certain donation level, a glowing plant.

What can people expect? How strong will the light be and how long lasting? We are aiming for something like glow-in-the-dark paint.

Transgenics: A New Breed of Crops

You need to be in a dark room, and then you can see it dimly glowing. From there, we will work on optimizing and boosting the light output. The future we are referring to there is a synthetic biology future. We think that this kind of technology is going to become democratized; it will be accessible to many people.

This technology is rapidly being adopted. There are tons of people working on stuff, tons and tons and tons. If you look at the iGEM [International Genetically Engineered Machine] Foundation projects , you can see some of the breadth and variety of things that are being done. The spider silk is cool. I think the guys working on new versions of meat are cool. Some people have expressed concern with you distributing glowing plants and releasing synthetic plants into the wild.

What do you have to say to those who fear this? People have been genetically engineering plants for many decades now. We are just following in the footsteps of all of the other plants that have already been released in the last 20 years. Continue or Give a Gift. Privacy Policy , Terms of Use Sign up. SmartNews History. History Archaeology. World History. Featured: The Suspect in City Hall. Science Age of Humans. Future of Space Exploration. Human Behavior. Our Planet. Earth Optimism Summit. Ingenuity Ingenuity Festival. The Innovative Spirit.

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Genetically modified tree - Wikipedia

At the Smithsonian Visit. New Research. Curators' Corner. Ask Smithsonian. Photos Submit to Our Contest. Photo of the Day. Video Ingenuity Awards. Smithsonian Channel. Video Contest. Games Daily Sudoku. Universal Crossword. Daily Word Search. Parents pushing strollers past Azalea Garden and up Daffodil Hill eyed me suspiciously as I sidled up to a scraggly bare tree beside the path. Amid acres of gorgeous organisms, this specimen was the homeliest of the bunch. Twelve feet tall, with spindly gray branches and raw cankers shredding its trunk, it was not likely to be featured in any baby photos that day.

Yet I had come all the way from Vermont to see it. The draw for me wasn't looks; it was the fact that the tree was alive at all. Here was a year-old American chestnut, one of the first in a century to make it that long. The American chestnut has been called the redwood of the East. From Georgia to Maine, up and down the spine of Appalachia, no other tree could match its grandeur. Its trunks soared feet high and could reach 10 feet in diameter.

Regulation of field trials in the USA

With crowns that spanned a fifth of an acre, its prodigious nut crops were essential food for everything from bears to passenger pigeons. It was known as the cradle-to-grave tree because people were born in rot-resistant chestnut houses, warmed by chestnut fires, entertained by chestnut fiddles, and laid to rest in chestnut coffins. Then, in , a nurseryman imported some Japanese chestnut seeds that carried a fungus to which the American chestnut had no resistance.

The blight was discovered in at the Bronx Zoo, a few hundred yards from where this scraggly young tree now stands, and it spread with shocking speed. By , four billion American chestnuts— This little tree in front of me was different. I leaned in close and put my hands against it. There were half a dozen cankers up and down its trunk, but wherever the smooth gray bark had split, it had then scabbed over, black and warty. The wounds looked contained. It was engaged in a battle with the blight, but it was neither winning nor losing that battle.

Born in a lab in Syracuse, Darling 4 was engineered by geneticists who inserted a wheat gene into a wild chestnut embryo extracted from an immature nut. The gene gives the chestnut the ability to make an enzyme that detoxifies the blight—a skill none of the four billion American chestnuts that preceded it ever developed. Darling 4 doesn't make enough of the enzyme to stop the blight completely, but its successor, Darling 58—currently flourishing on a research farm at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse—does.

The goal is for the new tree to be distributed to nurseries and planted in forests throughout the East, marking a major milestone in the story of GMOs. Up to now, no genetically modified organism has been purposefully planted beyond a lab or a farm plot. Up to now, the line between wild nature and artifice has remained firm.

I gave the tree a pat. It felt strong and solid, like any old tree. Standing tall despite its wounds, shining in the bright April sunlight, it seemed stoic, almost noble.

Before it can be released into the wild, the transgenic chestnut has to pass a battery of ecological tests at SUNY designed to ensure that it acts just like a natural chestnut. So far the tree has aced all the tests. Approval is looking likely.


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And that is why, to those who are concerned about GMOs, it is the most dangerous tree in the world. I was editing one of the first books on the coming era of genetic engineering. It was called Genetically Engineered Food: Changing the Nature of Nature , which pretty much summed up my feelings at the time. Each species was a masterpiece of evolution; why play God? Transferring an antifreeze gene from a cold-water fish to a strawberry as people were proposing then struck me as the full-on Island of Dr.

Moreau , a freakish and foolish crossing of natural boundaries, and it seemed to me like we should steer clear of that island entirely. Then along came Monsanto's Roundup Ready corn and soy, some of the first agricultural GMOs, and all my concerns seemed validated. Roundup Ready crops contain a gene taken from a bacterium that makes the plants immune to Roundup, Monsanto's blockbuster herbicide.

Roundup kills everything green that it touches—with the exception of Roundup Ready crops. This genetic jujitsu allowed farmers to spray Roundup directly on their fields, killing all the weeds, which, in turn, saved the farmers a lot of time and money, and they embraced it enthusiastically. A lot of us didn't. As the disastrous consequences of chemical farming were becoming all too clear, the invention of a crop that locked in dependency on herbicide seemed extraordinarily problematic. What would all that Roundup do to the microbial life in the soil?

What would it do to us?