Global Justice Ecology Project submitted the letter below to the New York Times Magazine–it was published in its print edition on Sunday, May 17th. The letter was submitted in response to a piece written by Gabriel Popkin and published as a feature in the Sunday May 3rd NYT Magazine called “Can Genetic Engineering Bring Back the American Chestnut.” Popkin spent 18 months or more working on this article. He spoke to numerous people connected to the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees, including interviewing each of our scientists for hours.
In the end he used virtually nothing from these conversations except two out of context quotes from our Campaign members. He did, however, find it a good idea to quote lead GE American chestnut tree researcher William Powell saying that we “have no science.” That kind of blatantly slanted journalism is always disappointing, especially when published in an outlet like the Times. Our response is below. You can also read our 42 page white paper detailing the science surrounding concerns about the effort to genetically engineer the American chestnut tree–which we shared with both Mr. Powell and Mr. Popkin [@GabrielPopkin].
You can also read our longer response to Popkin’s piece here.
Gabriel Popkin’s article was disappointing in its heavy support for legalizing the release of unproven and risky genetically engineered (GE) trees into forests, and dismissal of concerns by Global Justice Ecology Project and our allies.
Laboratory experiments to “restore” American chestnut trees using genetic engineering were romanticized, though the actual experiment would take place in our forests, and science tells us the risks are huge.
Forests make life on Earth possible.
There are no long-term risk assessments of releasing GE trees into forests, and such assessments are not possible with trees that live hundreds of years.
Engineers think they can (re)create nature in the lab, but wild American chestnuts, or any species, cannot be replaced by with GE facsimiles. They are not protecting nature, they are replacing it.
That is not restoration, but dangerous experimentation.
We all have a role to play in protecting forests from unpredictable and irreversible threats from GE trees.
– Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project
Sign the petition to the US Department of Agriculture calling on them to protect forests from GE trees.