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The American Chestnut used to comprise a full 25% of the trees found in a given hardwood forest in the eastern US. That all changed in the early 20th century when a deadly fungal blight began to decimate the population. Enter the transgenic American chestnut, but we will get to that in a minute.
For years, scientists have made efforts to restore this tree, known to indegineous populations for centuries due to its edible nuts as well as its quality timber. In their heyday, Chestnuts used to tower over eastern hardwood forests, and even in major cities the local populace could find a hearty form of nourishment from its seeds.
Now, the researchers at SUNY may have found a possible avenue: by incorporating the genes of a wheat species that can interact with the fungus and detoxify it, they may have developed a completely blight resistant Transgenic American Chestnut species.
Although the research so far is promising, there is a controversy over this genetically-modified species. Some environmentalists claim genetically modified species could have unintended consequences. Research so far shows that this species of chestnut is safe for human and animal consumption, but there is a fierce debate about whether or not its spread should be proliferated.
The FDA will soon rule on whether or not to allow this new species of chestnut to be planted, potentially ushering in a new era for this once-great species.