Sharing seeds of rare plants

Tim Eck
Thu, 13 Nov 2014 03:50:34 PST
In The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) we have seen our share of
reactionary fervor regarding 'purity' of plant genetics.  Our membership
doesn't include the most extreme because of our goals to breed the blight
resistance genes of the Chinese chestnut into the American.  The original
plan was to backcross to the BCF3 (15/16 American) and then intercross for
homozygosity of the blight resistance genes, leaving us with about 94%
American genetics.  
There are those who think this is a travesty and they go crazy when they
hear about the NY chapter's program to insert the wheat rust oxalic oxidase
gene into the American chestnut through transgenics.  (Cryphonectria
parasitica attacks the cambium by killing live cells with oxalic acid and
then consuming the dead tissue which actually makes it a saprophyte rather
than a parasite.  Breaking down the oxalic acid is a defense against this
attack.)  The interesting response has been that people are more horrified
by the transgenics which saves a 100% American chestnut genome than by the
hybridization which saves a 94% American genome (actually, it saves ~100% in
the population but 94% in the individual).
I have often made the same analogy to Hitler as Tony in the reaction of the
ignorant to this genetic manipulation.  I have also been amazed at the
reaction of organic gardeners to transgenics - they will spray Bt on their
corn but they won't plant corn with Bt already in it.

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