As researchers at North Carolina State University, we convened a workshop entitled, “Biotechnology, the American Chestnut Tree, and Public Engagement” on April 25-26, 2018 on our campus in Raleigh, NC. The workshop was supported by a National Science Foundation grant from the Science, Technology, and Society program entitled, “Responsible Innovation with Genetically Modified American Chestnut Trees” (SES-1632670), with additional support from NC State’s Genetic Engineering and Society Center.
The workshop aimed to foster dialogue among diverse stakeholders regarding strategies to engage broader publics in the governance of the genetically engineered (GE) American chestnut tree (GEAC). These trees were genetically engineered to tolerate the presence of a chestnut blight that entered the United States at the turn of the 20th century and drove the species to functional extinction within fifty years (Thompson, 2012). For some, the GEAC offers a promising possibility to save a much-beloved tree species. For others, the GEAC is viewed as a considerable risk to already stressed forests.