STUDY Question 70:
Are genetically engineered trees appropriate for papermaking?
are plants, animals, bacteria or other living organisms
that have been genetically engineered by the insertion
of a foreign gene. For centuries, farmers and plant
breeders have improved crops and livestock, and to a
lesser extent trees, by isolating and selecting for
breeding the individuals with the most desirable traits.
Everything has hinged on sexual reproduction: only by
breeding within the same genus have advances been made.
Genetic engineering has changed all this. It has enabled
scientists to dispense with sex and cross the genus
barrier. - Fast-Wood Plantations . . .
STUDY: Most responses state that the use of genetically
engineered trees for papermaking must be investigated
further before this technology is applied.
jury is still out. - Frank Locantore, Co-op America
Enso has decided to refrain from any commercial use
of controversial genetic engineering techniques on trees
or any other organisms. Nevertheless, Stora Enso will
continue to take part in basic research in this area
in order to keep up to date with developments. This
research will not lead to any commercial applications,
however. - Stora Enso
believes that the careful use of genetically modified
trees should be scientifically investigated. We believe
that genetically modified trees may help meet the growing
demand for wood and paper products worldwide, may effectively
compete in the marketplace, and help sustain the world's
forest resources. If new varieties of trees are developed
for commercial use, precautions should be taken to assure
public confidence. At the same time, any regulations
or oversight must be prudent and thoughtful and must
not impose unreasonable barriers, unnecessarily impede
field trial investigation or interfere with timely operational
applications. - Boise
World Wildlife Fund scoping study surmises that the
main impact of transgenic trees might not be genetic
pollution, or the creation of super weeds, but 'the
contribution that [genetic engineering] might make to
unsustainable land use.' The study suggests that trees
engineered for enhanced growth will generally be voracious
consumers of water and nutrients, and thus will have
the potential to degrade land. However, similar objections
could be raised for the non-GMO eucalypt clones, raised
through tissue culture, which are delivering astonishingly
high yields, most famously in the Aracruz plantations
of eastern Brazil. Nevertheless, it is true that genetically
improved or genetically modified trees will fulfill
their true potential only when the right growing conditions
are provided. They must be planted in suitable climates
with adequate water and they will nearly always require
the use of fertilizers. They may also demand relative
freedom from weed competition when young, and this means
that herbicides must be used. Current objections to
GMOs, like the defense of GMOs, are based on scientific
theory. We lack empirical evidence. The jury is out
still. - Cossalter 2003
Fell Finland's Only GM Tree Study: Attackers have torn
up 400 genetically modified birch trees in Finland,
wrecking the nation's only research into the environmental
impact of biotechnology on forests. . . . The trees
were chopped down or torn up by their roots at the weekend
on the fenced but unguarded 2,000-square-metre site.
Some environmental groups fear genetically modified
trees might irreversibly "contaminate" food crops and
wild species, an issue the study aimed to investigate.
"The research investigated
the possible environmental effects of doing field studies
using genetically modified materials. It would have
been extremely important to find out about these issues,"
said research station head Juhani Haggman.
The 400 birches were part
of Finland's only field study on genetically modified
trees. The forestry industry hopes genetic modification
could cut paper-making costs and improve products by
producing trees with suitable traits. "We lack research
on how genes work," Haggman said. Researchers on the
government-funded Finnish Forest Research Institute
(Metla) project were working on the felled trees to
collect any data that remained, Haggman said. The study
was due for completion at the end of 2005. - Reuters,
reported on Paperloop.com,
June 23, 2004
STUDY: Other responses indicate that genetically engineered
trees should not be used for papermaking.
With some very limited exceptions, there is no real
need for genetically engineered trees. Meanwhile, the
risks are far too high that pollen and seed from genetically
engineered trees will mix with natural forests, and
permanently alter those forests. Existing federal, state,
and international safeguards for genetically modified
organisms are considered highly inadequate by many scientists
and conservation organizations. - Daniel Hall, Forest
Biodiversity Program Director, American Lands Alliance
problem with genetically engineered trees is that generally
(almost always in the US and Canada) the engineered
trees are planted in an area where native forests of
the same species are present. This means cross-pollination
will likely occur with native forest trees, which is
totally unacceptable. If it can be shown that a genetically
modified trait cannot be transferred through pollen,
then this risk would appear to be eliminated. - Robert
R. Bryan, Forest Ecologist, Maine Audubon
we oppose genetic "improvements" to trees on public
lands? Sierra Club believes that we can't allow the
industry to be judged by its hype and that patented
genes are not an improvement over nature. We also must
avoid only judging what one gene may do, because once
hundreds of different fragments of hacked, patented
genetic code are allowed access to public lands, the
consequences of unintended combinations will be unpredictable.
GE trees will also be a danger in other nations, particularly
in the underdeveloped world where conditions for effective
regulation often don't exist.
We would also point out
that the United States is using twice as much paper
per capita as other highly civilized nations (Europe,
Japan). Let us not ask genetic engineering to do what
could be accomplished by lower-tech means like putting
a surcharge on junk mail. - Sierra
Trees Stir Debate - Sierra Club, Fearful of Projects
Going Awry, Seeks Moratorum:
Scientists are planting genetically engineered trees
in dozens of research projects across the country, ignoring
the pleas of environmentalists who fear dangerous, unintended
"It won't be as widespread
as agricultural biotechnology, but it could be much
more destructive," said Jim Diamond, chairman of the
Sierra Club's genetic engineering committee. "Trees
are what's left of our natural environment and home
to endangered species." The Sierra Club wants a moratorium
on the planting of genetically engineered trees outdoors
until the science is better understood. But like a tree
falling deep in the forest, its call has gone unheeded.
The tree researchers say
their critics are missing all the ways that science
can give Mother Nature a fighting chance against ravages
natural and manmade. Biotechnology, they say, may provide
just what's needed to help reverse global deforestation
and industrial pollution while satisfying increased
demands for wood and paper products. . . .
"There is a lot of value
in genetic engineering," said Oregon State University
researcher Steven Strauss, who tends to a few thousand
engineered trees. Some researchers are infusing trees
with genetic material taken from viruses and bacteria
that helps them row faster and fatter and yield better
wood. Others are splicing mercury-gobbling bacteria
genes into trees, enlisting nature to help clean polluted
soil. Still others are inserting foreign genes that
might reduce the amount of toxic chemicals needed to
process trees into paper. . . .
But could biotech trees
cross-breed with their natural brethren and ruin forests'
genetic diversity? The Sierra Club fears that, among
other ecological consequences. Researchers hope to placate
critics by engineering sterility into their designer
trees, so their impact on the environment can be contained.
But that technology remains elusive.
Many field trials are
backed by paper and timber concerns hoping to design
trees that yield more wood and paper. . . . Most explore
ways to streamline timber and pulp production, said
[ArborGen LLC] Chief Technology Officer Maud Hinchee.
She said the company's work could reduce reliance on
national forests, with faster growing trees growing
on industry plantations. . . . Numerous projects are
aimed at growing more wood on less land or making it
cheaper and less environmentally harmful to process
trees in mills. . . .
Oregon State's Strauss
says the protesters legitimate concerns are virtually
identical to those of scientists. - Paul Elias, Associated
Press, reported in the Marin Independent Journal,
Business section, August 1, 2003
such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, which have
long expressed their fears about GMOs in agriculture,
have been joined in their campaigns against 'Frankentrees'
by groups like the Native Forest Network, which claims
that 'native forests ... are threatened worldwide by
genetically engineered tree plantations.' - Fast-Wood
have also suggested that genetic engineering of trees
for reduced lignin content and for insect resistance
might not prove to be as beneficial as the biotechnologists
hope. Take, for example, lignin, which confers physical
strength on trees and constitutes part of their defence
mechanism against pests. Reducing lignin content could
make trees more susceptible to pest attacks, and consequently
more pesticides would be required in plantations. -
Fast-Wood Plantations . . .
STUDY: Some are positive.
are also looking for genes that code for the enzyme
that breaks down lignin. Up to a third of a tree's dry
weight is lignin, which must be removed at considerable
cost when pulpwood is turned into paper. Plantations
of low-lignin trees could help reduce pulping costs.
It is claimed that this would also be good for the environment,
as lignin removal is an environmentally hazardous process.
- Fast-Wood Plantations . . .
STUDY: Other responses:
do you define genetically engineered trees? I think
the larger question is more important: can paper be
made effectively (quality, cost) from fibers other than
that from trees? - Susan Hammond, Executive Director,
Silva Forest Foundation
is no reason to believe that genetically engineered
trees would be inappropriate for papermaking. There
may be distinct advantages to raising genetically modified
trees for making paper that range from greater disease
resistance to less need for fertilizers. - International