Japanese scientists screw with Cedar Tree DNA

Japanese scientists screw with Cedar Tree DNA

In a country where allergies rule, pollen-free cedar trees may be the answer.

This week I present to you yet one more bit of evidence that shows that not everything Japanese scientists invent is bizarre or seemingly useless.  This time around, it’s the genetic engineers who are hard at work.  They’ve managed to create a new pollen-free cedar tree, a huge step forward in the war against allergies in the country.

This genetic marvel comes to us courtesy of the people at the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute.  They screwed around with a tree’s DNA and, via genetic recombination, made a pollen-free strain of the terrible cedar tree.  They aren’t the first to attempt this mad science, however, as U.S. scientists put together a pollen-free pine tree some time ago.  Still, it’s a great leap forward.

So why is this so important, you ask?  Well, cedar trees are rampant in the country and a great many people, an estimated one-fourth of the population, are allergic to them.  Ever seen those pictures of people walking around Japan with surgical masks on?  That’s not because of the smog.  Anyone out there who has bad allergies can probably relate to the pure hell that is a high pollen count.  They’ve had low-pollen versions of cedars making the rounds already, but to have no pollen is, naturally (unnaturally?), a better option.

It takes about two years after planting the trees before they transform into pollen-free versions, so time will have to pass before people get their much-needed relief.  Of course, the question of how this new strain will affect the environment is still up-in-the-air. But until random genetic mutant trees grow huge and start destroying Tokyo, people are probably going to be pretty OK with them.