[permaculture] Genetically Modified Forest Planned for U.S. Southeast

carolyn anderson cschampagne at gmail.com
Fri Feb 5 13:01:32 EST 2010


sheesh.  is nothing sacred?
people are so dumb.
Hold the vision that it won't work.

Thanks for the heads up.

Carolyn

On Fri, Feb 5, 2010 at 9:04 AM, mIEKAL aND <qazingulaza at gmail.com> wrote:

> Genetically Modified Forest Planned for U.S. Southeast
>
> International Paper and MeadWestvaco are planning to transform
> plantation forests of the southeastern U.S. by replacing native pine
> with genetically engineered eucalyptus
>
> By Paul Voosen
>
>
> http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=eucalyptus-genetically-modified-pine-tree-southwest-forest
>
> PINE GONE: Native pine trees could be sent to pasture in place of
> eucalyptus, pictured here.
> ISTOCK/MALIKETH
> e-mail print comment
>
> Genetic engineering is coming to the forests.
>
> While the practice of splicing foreign DNA into food crops has become
> common in corn and soy, few companies or researchers have dared to
> apply genetic engineering to plants that provide an essential strut of
> the U.S. economy, trees.
>
> But that will soon change. Two industry giants, International Paper
> Co. and MeadWestvaco Corp., are planning to transform plantation
> forests of the southeastern United States by replacing native pine
> with genetically engineered eucalyptus, a rapidly growing Australian
> tree that in its conventional strains now dominates the tropical
> timber industry.
>
> The companies' push into genetically modified trees, led by their
> joint biotech venture, ArborGen LLC, looks to overcome several hurdles
> for the first time. Most prominently, they are banking on a
> controversial gene splice that restricts trees' ability to reproduce,
> meant to allay fears of bioengineered eucalyptus turning invasive and
> overtaking native forests.
>
> If such a fertility control technology -- which has come under fire in
> farming for fear seed firms will exploit it -- is proven effective, it
> could open the door to many varieties of wild plants, including weedy
> grasses, to be genetically engineered for use in energy applications
> like biomass and next-generation biofuels without fear of
> invasiveness.
>
> The use of such perennial plants -- so named because, unlike annual
> farm crops, they live and grow for many years -- has long interested
> business and government, including the Energy Department, which has
> collaborated with ArborGen. The plants, which include many grasses
> targeted for cellulosic ethanol, can be harvested when needed and,
> given their hardiness, grow on marginal land.
>
> 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.
>
> In its rosiest scenarios, growers using ArborGen's presumably
> expensive seeds would see huge gains in productivity and become the
> preferred tree stock for a new generation of bioenergy refineries. The
> South would become the new Appalachia; timber would serve as its coal.
> Inklings of such progress have already arisen, including recent word
> that the German utility RWE AG would build the world's largest
> wood-pellet plant in Georgia to supplement its coal habits.
>
> By adopting eucalyptus as a tree stock, the United States would simply
> be catching up with countries like Brazil, which has leveraged vast
> tree plantations in recent decades to pivot from a net wood importer
> to an exporter. While the South saw a rise in pine plantations during
> this time, pine cannot compete with eucalyptus for sheer growth rate,
> the company says.
>
> "The United States is behind the game on this," said Les Pearson,
> ArborGen's director of regulatory affairs. "Lots of countries around
> the world have been growing eucalyptus for many decades."
>
> Indeed, primarily because of competition from South America, demand
> for traditional American tree pulp has gone slack. This sagging
> industry could allow up to 10 million acres in the Southeast to be
> repurposed for fast-growing eucalyptuses, according to corporate
> estimates.
>
> But it still remains unclear if the nascent bioenergy industry will be
> enough to make up for demand lost to Brazilian plantations, said
> Curtis Seltzer, a timber consultant who has studied ArborGen and calls
> its trees a "game changer."
>
> "It's not clear to me that biomass will pick up the slack for the
> traditional markets [as they] ebb," Seltzer said. "But it could."
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