First Take: Poplar Science Print

Poplar Science 

ImageWhat do you get when you cross a rabbit with a tree? Less pollution. If that doesn’t strike you as particularly funny, that’s because it’s no joke. UW researchers recently discovered that poplar trees became extra-good at gobbling up toxic chemicals from the air and water when they’d been inoculated with rabbit genes. Suddenly the trees were capable of neutralizing benzene, vinyl chloride and a host of other cancer-causing toxins. The discovery raises all the usual concerns about genetic manipulation and unintended consequences to the ecosystem. But handled cautiously, the scientists say, it also holds a good deal of promise for the future of environmental protection and disease prevention. “Something is clearly wrong with our environment if children are dying of cancer,” Sharon Doty, a professor in the College of Forest Resources and a breast cancer survivor, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “That’s a lot of the motivation for me. I’ve got to do something about this.”