The American Elm was devastated by Dutch elm disease. (Photo courtesy of VA Department of Forestry)
The American elm was found throughout forests in the Midwest before Dutch elm disease took hold. The disease cut the population of elms by more than half. Now, the U.S. Forest Service wants to re-establish the stately tree. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sandra Harris reports:
The American Elm was found throughout forests in the Midwest before Dutch elm disease took hold. The disease cut the population of elms by more than half. Now, the U.S. Forest Service wants to reestablish the American Elm. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sandra Harris reports.
The Forest Service is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a small tree-planting project along the Mississippi River. Randy Urich is a natural resources officer with the Corps. He says it’s one of several similar projects aimed at brining back American Elms.
The trees were once a major part of flood plain forests. Urich says the tree was lost to Dutch elm disease beginning in the 1930’s.
“One of the characteristics of elm is that it’s very tolerant of shade, and in these floodplain forests you have a tendency to get some very dense overstory canopy, and because of that shade tolerance, the elms are really good at regenerating themselves.”
Researchers are developing disease-resistant American Elms by using various cloning techniques, including cloning trees that have naturally survived the disease.
On Wednesday, nine trees will be planted at the Pentagon as a memorial to the victims of September 11th. The trees are clones of the nation’s largest red ash. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamar Charney reports:
On Wednesday, nine trees will be planted at the Pentagon as a memorial to the
victims of September 11th. The trees are clones of the nation’s largest red ash. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamar Charney reports:
David Millarch runs a tree nursery in Northern Michigan and he’s the
founder of a project that is cloning the nation’s largest measured trees
also known as champions. Michigan’s congressional delegation encouraged
the Pentagon to plant nine of his clones of a 450-year-old champion ash tree
“Most religions signify the passing of someone with the planting of a tree and
that’s been taking place for thousands of years to signify our spirit lives on…
and that’s why we call these trees champions for heroes.”
Millarch will help plant the trees on the south side of the Pentagon. The
ceremony will be attended by the President, most members of Congress, and
family members of the victims of September 11th.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tamar Charney.
Milk production is big business in the upper Midwest. Now, the president of a biotech company in Wisconsin is milking a herd of cloned cows that he says could give the Great Lakes dairy industry a boost, but there are still questions about the health of cloned cows, and whether the milk they produce is safe for human consumption. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Gil Halsted has the story:
Milk production is big business in the upper Midwest. Now the president of a biotech company in Wisconsin is milking a herd of cloned cows that he says could give the Great Lakes dairy industry a boost. But there are still questions about the health of cloned cows and whether the milk they produce is safe for human consumption. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Gil Halsted reports:
(Sound of milk splashing into a sink)
Just outside the milking parlor at the Infigen Dairy a steady stream of milk is flowing from a pipe into a sink. It gurgles down the drain into another pipe that leads to a holding tank. Infigen president Michael Bishop says the milk is perfectly safe and nutritious but when the day’s milking is done he’ll get rid of it.
“Right now that milk is worth 15, 16 dollars a hundredweight and we’re dumpin’ it.”
The milk Bishop is dumping comes from 23 cloned cows. He produced them by removing the genetic material from an unfertilized cow egg and then inserting the DNA from the ear of a cow he wanted to reproduce. The result is a herd of cows that looks uncannily identical. There are no regulations requiring Bishop to dump the milk from his herd. But the FDA has asked all owners of cloned livestock to keep food products from their animals off the market until the agency decides whether or not to regulate them. The FDA is waiting for a National Academy of Sciences report on animal cloning due out later this spring before it makes a decision.
FDA spokesperson Stephen Sundlof says even if the report includes no red flags on food products from clones, the agency may require tests on the milk from cloned cows before it goes on the market.
“That would be to look compositionally at milk from cloned animals and compare that to milk from non-cloned animals to see if there was any substantial differences. But other than that we would likely find that those products were in fact identical to normal milk produced by uncloned animals.”
Michael Bishop is confident the milk his cloned cows are producing is perfectly safe for human consumption. In fact he says he’s already run the kind of test Sundlof is talking about comparing the milk of his cloned cows with the milk from cows at a neighboring dairy.
“Nothing new in the cloned cows… but there were variants in the bulk tank of a neighbor dairy, so it really turns out that the food product is more predictable. It’s gonna be the same in a cloned animal.”
But critics of cloning food say there are still lots of unanswered questions. Infigen isn’t the only company cloning dairy cows and several consumer groups are lobbying the FDA to put some strong regulations in place before milk from any of the diaries using the procedure is allowed on supermarket shelves. Joseph Mendelsen is with the Washington-based Center for Food Safety. He says there are a number of potential health problems for cloned cows. For instance they may be more susceptible to mastitis, and may require more use of antibiotics.
“Are there possibly subtle genetic differences that may affect the nutritional quality of the milk? I don’t think those issues have been looked at and they’re certainly not gonna be looked at with the scrutiny I think that consumers expect if we don’t have a mandatory regulatory system looking at cloned animals and the products derived from them.”
Infigen’s Michael Bishop agrees that regulations to insure the quality of the milk may be necessary, and he’s in favor of labeling the milk from cloned cows so consumers can make an informed choice.
“Americans are used to having choices and I believe they should have this choice. Let’s let science prove one way or the other if there’s a difference and then let’s let the marketplace decide if that product is going to be acceptable.”
Critics of cloning all say labeling should be required for food from cloned animals. But they’re even more concerned about the affect clones will have on genetic diversity. John Peck is the executive director of the Wisconsin-based Family Farm Defenders. He says an increase in the number of cows with identical genes will reduce the range of genetic diversity. And that means, he says, that herds of cloned cattle will be even more likely to face problems from disease and viruses.
“If you’re basically engineering in this uniformity, you’re also engineering susceptibility to catastrophic events, which we’ve seen that with other crops that are genetically engineered or hybrids that are vulnerable to one form of blight or rust or something that comes in from afar. The big question then is, who’s gonna pay for that? You know are the consumers gonna foot the bill when a factory farm of two thousand dairy cows all gets wiped out by one virus?”
But Michael Bishop says his cloned cows will not be any more at risk for disease than the original healthy cows they were cloned from. He predicts that once cloning catches on, farmers running large commercial dairies will begin adding clones to their herds to increase their efficiency.
“Because they’ll actually be able to create a more uniform consistent product from cow to cow to cow, and be able to predict how much hay, how much feed, and exactly what the outcome’s gonna be. Is it gonna be thirty thousand, thirty one thousand, thirty two thousand pounds of milk from the inputs they put in.”
how quickly large dairies turn to cloning for economic advantage though depends a lot on whether the FDA decides to impose restrictions on the milk the cloned cows produce.
For Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Gil Halsted.