A team of scientists from the Japan-based Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute just announced they have “successfully developed the first allergy-free cedar tree by altering the DNA makeup of the plant”. While this may be great news for allergy sufferers, the pollen-less ‘frankentrees’ have raised concerns over their impact on the environment.
Unfortunately, Japan experiences a severe high pollen count every spring. In fact, one in four people suffer from hay fever every year, and with higher temperatures, the pollen count has been five times higher this year than last spring. However the Japanese team headed by Katsuaki Ishii found a way to adapt DNA re-sequencing techniques developed by American scientists on pollen-less pine trees and transfer it to cedar trees.
While the pollen-less cedar trees are only in the experimental phase, the team hopes to plant the pollen-less trees across Japan. Why has the cedar tree been targeted? The trees were planted to aid post-war construction after WWII and they prospered, matured and (unfortunately for allergy sufferers) have begun to emit more pollen the older they get. The high pollen levels have led to a booming trade in face masks, not to mention anti-pollen glasses, nose plugs, nasal sprays, and portable air purifiers small enough to be worn around the neck.
Via ABC News