American Chestnut Foundation Board Members Resign over Support for GMO Chestnut Trees

Posted on Mar 28 2019 - 5:24pm by Sustainable Pulse

In a statement Thursday, two board members of the Massachusetts/Rhode Island Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF), including the Chapter President announced they were resigning from TACF as a protest against the organization’s support for genetically engineering (GE) American chestnut trees.

Board President Lois Breault-Melican and Board member Denis Melican made the decision to leave due to TACF support for the unregulated planting of GE American chestnut trees throughout eastern US forests.

The Melicans stated, “We are unwilling to lift a finger, donate a nickel or spend one minute of our time assisting the development of genetically engineered (GE) trees or using the American chestnut to promote biotechnology in forests as any kind of benefit to the environment. The GE American chestnut is draining the idealism and integrity from TACF.”

If deregulated by the USDA, the GE American chestnut would be the first GMO allowed to be planted in the wild with the intent to reproduce itself. There are no long-term studies of the impacts this would have on forests, wildlife, pollinators or human health.

The Melicans joined TACF sixteen years ago to help bring back the American chestnut. In their statement they wrote, “Looking back, if we had known on day one that Monsanto and [GE tree company] ArborGen had an interest in – and funded – the GMO chestnut, we would not have gotten involved.”

Lois Breault-Melican added, “There is just no reason for taking the risks involved with genetically engineering the American chestnut. The local TACF chapters have been working for years and having great success developing blight resistant American chestnut trees using backcross breeding.”

Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project, an organization that has led international efforts to protect forests and communities from GE trees since 2003, described the Melican’s resignation. “This is a very important letter calling out the leadership of the TACF. TACF was founded to bring back the American chestnut, yet their national leadership is allowing the chestnut to be genetically engineered and used to promote the ludicrous idea that GE trees can improve forest health. In reality, GE American chestnuts are being used as a Trojan Horse to open the door to GE trees like poplar and eucalyptus, being developed for large-scale industrial plantations.”

A White Paper detailing the science behind concerns surrounding the genetically engineered American chestnut is forthcoming and will be released soon.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
(1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
About the Author

Sustainable Pulse is a global news outlet covering sustainable agriculture, GMOs and pesticides.

2 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Craig Sams April 4, 2019 at 16:13 - Reply

    Here in the UK chestnuts are just one of many species of tree that our enriched biochar applications have saved. It is tragic that the American chestnut almost became extinct but genetic manipulation is not the answer.

  2. Ken Blenk May 16, 2019 at 23:56 - Reply

    You can get all-natural American Chestnut seed from Sheffield Seed Company. No GMO, no backcrossing.
    These seeds are the product of 30 years breeding Americans collected throughout the country and grown in open-pollination of 400 trees in one orchard. These trees are all blight exposed to give them the chance to build resistance.
    It is survival of the fittest with 3rd, and 4th generation progeny replacing the few that have died.
    Seed is available late October and supplies are limited.
    Breeding American Chestnuts the old fashioned way with mother nature. See Freeville/Cortland American Chestnut article.

Leave A Response