Compared to gene-edited babies in China and ambitious projects to rescue woolly mammoths from extinction, biotech trees might sound pretty tame. But releasing genetically engineered trees into forests to counter threats to forest health represents a new frontier in biotechnology.
Our understanding of the natural world is now so great we can manipulate the DNA blueprints for any living thing on Earth. We can replace genes for traits we don’t like with others we prefer and even add genes that don’t occur naturally in an organism. Over the last few years, scientists have developed several methods for editing genes in this way and excitement over one in particular, the CRISPR-Cas9 system, has reached fever pitch.