Is Genetically Modified Wood Worth the Risk?
Two big paper companies are pushing to bring fast-growing genetically-modified Australian Eucalyptus trees to the southeastern United States. The...
Two big paper companies are pushing to bring fast-growing genetically-modified Australian Eucalyptus trees to the southeastern United States. The trees have genetic tweaks that allow them to survive freezing temperatures and limit their reproduction so they can't "go invasive" and take over local ecosystems. But there are concerns. Scientific Americanhas the story:
Yet many questions remain about the effectiveness of the fertility system used by ArborGen, which, according to leading scientists, has never been rigorously studied in multiyear trials to prove that it can effectively control plants' spread. More research must be conducted before such systems are relied upon to restrict pollen and seed spread, they say.Despite these calls, ArborGen has been seeking government deregulation of its eucalyptus, which is primarily engineered to resist freezing temperatures, since 2008. If successful, ArborGen would likely revolutionize the timber industry and the Southern landscape by becoming the first company to roll out bioengineered trees on a massive scale, observers say.I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, these eucalyptus trees are voracious consumers of carbon and can be harvested more sustainably than other species because they grow more quickly. Those are significant benefits. There's also often a lot of knee-jerk anti-GMO sentiment among progressives that I don't really get. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with genetically modified things. We all owe our lives to genetic modification.At the same time, introducing a foreign species into an ecosystem and assuming you could reliably control its reproduction forever seems foolhardy. We've all seen Jurassic Park. Life finds a way.And, at the end of the day, we could probably do with a much smaller paper industry anyway.