|Cloning T. erectus|
Standing straight as an arrow, 80 feet tall at maturity, the telephone tree as it is called today is one of nature's great wonders. It once covered great swaths of the upper United States. Originally used in this country in home construction, it began in the late 1800's to be used as the pole on which this growing nation would string her telephone wires from home to home and from coast to coast.
The story goes, true or not, that as he lay dying, Alexander Grahm Bell had just one thought. It wasn't of his dear wife, Mabel, and it wasn't of Mr. Watson. He could only think of the millions of trees that had been ripped from the ground just to stitch all those telephone wires across the land.
"If only I had come up with wireless," he thought.
Today, the U. S. Department of Agriculture and the
Chief scientist, Michael Monocot, described his elation. "We never got discouraged. Our first breakthrough came in 1995 when we were able to take a wild grown telephone pole tree, Telephonicus erectus, and grow it in the lab from sprig to fully grown tree in 65 days. Our only real problem after that was to genetically select out all of the branches, leaves and bark. First, we turned off the gene in T. erectus for photosynthesis. Then, it was a matter of implanting into the tree's genomic structure the R-18 fungi gene, directing the tree to live off dead matter consumed through its base, or stem, just as mushrooms do.
Immediately after the announcement, however, Mike Mold, a representative of the California Mushroom Growers Association had this to say, “This may be the end of the road for our industry. Our consultants, relying heavily on SOH-CAH-TOA, have told us that each new 60 foot tall T. erectus is equivalent to 3,500 4 oz. cans of sliced mushrooms with stems. We just don’t know if we will be able to hold out against such stiff competition.”
In other news, the National Podiatric Association put out a statement voicing their concern over the spread of athlete's foot once full cloning of T. erectus gets under way.