Scientists engineer pollenless cedar trees

Scientists engineer pollenless cedar trees

TOKYO —

Every year, pollen counts in Japan are getting worse. In fact, pollen levels in Tokyo were literally off the charts just a few weeks ago. As a result, for four months out of the year, an estimated 15 to 30% of the Japanese population suffers from hay fever.

The tragedy of this situation is that Japan’s pollen problems are caused by its own government which encouraged people to plant cedar trees to meet the growing demand for timber in the 1940s and to replace forests that were destroyed during WWII. Hay fever was actually relatively rare in Japan until the 1960s when the millions of cedar trees began to mature and produce pollen.

As cedar pollen levels continue to climb, Japanese scientists may have found a solution to the problem: pollenless cedar trees.

The Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute announced the development of the world’s first pollenless cedar tree created through genetic recombination. Before, selective breeding yielded low-pollen and pollenless varieties of Japanese cedar, but these trees only grew in certain condition, making a nation-wide solution impossible. By using genetic recombination, Japanese scientists are able to create region-specific varieties of cedar that do not produce pollen, which they are hoping will reduce the amount of pollen in the air come spring time.

For now, the research is still in the experimental stage. According to Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute officials, scientists must still verify the efficacy and safety of the new cedar trees.

Although these new pollenless cedar trees give a flicker of hope to those suffering from hay fever, a declining forestry industry and decreased demand for cedar timber makes getting rid of the existing pollen-producing cedars increasingly difficult. And with more cedars reaching maturity each year, it may be too late for Japanese government officials to find an immediate solution to the problem they created themselves.

Source: IT Media

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  • -3

    dcog9065

    Wow, that's a pretty unbelievable scientific achievement.

  • -2

    Elbuda Mexicano

    Breaking news! It ain't just only the Japanese population who suffer from hay fever! Last time I checked I was not Japanese and my head is killing me! My eyes, nose and throat are all itchy!! Bloody ceded trees! But I do love the Sakura cherry blossoms!

  • 4

    Tahoochi

    Don't screw with nature!

  • 8

    Surf O'Holic

    Harvest the matured trees. Use the abundant cedar for homes(basic lumber, closet liners, exterior shingles, etc.) at a more reasonable price. In their place, plant indigenous species that produce less pollen. Firewood anyone?

  • 7

    Farmboy

    Maybe they could engineer hay feverless people...

  • -2

    KnowBetter

    So just one question comes to mind after all these new "non-reproductive capable" cedars are the norm, where are the new cedars going to come from if not from a tree via the wind?

  • 0

    Virtuoso

    where are the new cedars going to come from if not from a tree via the wind?

    The same way the old trees were planted in the first places, by transplanting saplings grown in nurseries.

  • 2

    jlh02

    I wonder how much money pharmaceutical companies would lose if all cedar trees in Japan were replanted pollenless. Some companies might be very keen to ensure this project doesnt take off.

  • -2

    Ewan Huzarmy

    At least they've come clean and stopped telling us it's PM2.5 and Chinese pollution making our eyes itch.

  • -3

    SecularBeast

    Good grief.

    The only justifications given for this research are a wild 'guesstimate' of the number of hay-fever sufferers in Japan, and solely attributing the problem to the planting of cedar trees (i.e. were other potential causative factors like massive industrialization during the 1960s looked at?).

  • -2

    Moonraker

    I don't get it. So what is the idea? To replace all the current pointless cedar plantation with pointless new, improved, pollen-less cedars?

  • -3

    Verisimilitude

    we have been screwing with nature.. since the dawn of human settlements.. Aboriginal societies that existed in the past, would use nature for their own gains... The burning of grassland in the great plains of America, caused the Bison population to sky rocket.. hence greater levels of resources.. By replanting balanced, forests on bare mountains in regions that rely on domesticated fisheries, particularly Oysters, have helped increase its yield through, the increase in nutrients, therein plankton populations.

    While the world deforests pristine woodlands, like the Amazon, and Siberia, we care not use, our own reforested regions, on the basis of.. cost. Much like the slave industries that drove the sugar and cotton industries of the new world..

    Pollen-less cedars would be pointless.. how many decades would it take? what would the cost be? Can the government be trusted, in its use of funds, if it audaciously siphons funds from the rebuilding projects for its own, political needs ?

  • 3

    MrBum

    I agree with Surf O'Holic. Wouldn't it be easier to plant the other types of indigenous trees that were here before the war? I'm glad to know they're doing something, though.

    @ SecularBeast - I'm pretty sure hey-fever is like other allergies where the cause can be accurately identified through blood tests. I'm guessing you don't have it; otherwise you'd agree that it's a big problem in Japan.

  • -1

    budgie

    Misread: thought it said scientists engineer *pointless *cedar trees...

  • 1

    Kimokekahuna Hawaii

    Plant trees that do not give off Pollen.. and plant them downwind.. which way does the wind blow.. plant on East coast.. plant food.. there is greater threat in the air than pollen.. this is a waring to protect your children...

  • 0

    Ranger_Miffy2

    Cut those pollen laden, natural forest replacing forests and donate the wood to build houses for people in Tohoku! For FREE! Least we could do.

  • -1

    tmarie

    Guess the government is finally realizing planting them all over Japan wasn't such a great idea. Harvesting them and plant other trees in place that are native here. And then stop screaming with Mother Nature.

  • 1

    malfupete

    Thats pretty crazy if 30% of the population suffers from allergies to the pollen.. big business for the pharmaceutical companies, government taxes - why would they want to remove the source of the allergies?

  • 1

    Carolingium

    /facepalm

    What they need is biodiveristy... Many different species of trees and other vegetation.

  • 1

    Cliffy

    Stop messing with nature. You do that it will come back to haunt you. Killing bees are one very good example of that. I suffer from pollen allergies, but I just take antihistamines to deal with it. Rainy days in Spring are best for me.

  • 2

    ka_chan

    Here is a radical idea. Why not plant the original species of trees when the cedars are harvested? BTW, aren't cedars explosive when you have forest fires?

  • 0

    bfg4987

    BTW, aren't cedars explosive when you have forest fires?

    All evergreens are capable of exploding as far as I know, but for a tree to explode takes an EXTREMELY massive fire. If the fire is big enough to where trees are exploding, the exploding trees are the least of your concerns.

  • 1

    Taka Maja Miyazaki

    isnt this GMO? how will it affect insects like bees who need pollen? In GMO plants, bees cant pollinate and die from trying. . why not just chop down all the ceders and plant native trees?

  • 0

    Get Real

    We're harvesting less than a third of Japan's 70 million cubic metres growth each year (1). Our forests choke to death because, rather than maintain them, it's more economical to ship timber halfway across the planet.

    Rather than GM trees: a 'concrete coastline' solution to forestry management, how about making 'harmony with nature' more reality and less myth?

    Train more woodsmen to gradually thin out and replace the cedar with other native species. Promote sustainable ecotourism, from hiking and mountain bike trails to woodland resorts; harvest and market the resources, from fungi to game; biomass to building materials.

    Breathe life back into rural communities. Make them viable, desirable environments to live in, not just visit.

    1) http://www.jatan.org/eng/japan-e.html

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