Sunday, July 25, 2010

GE Eucalyptus Experiments in the Southern US

USDA has approved plantings of genetically engineered eucalyptus tress at sites in seven states. Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations are suing to set aside the approval.

Eucalyptus is a fast-growing tree that dominates tropical timber plantations. It is not native to the U.S. and has become invasive in some places.

Two major international timber companies, International Paper and MedWestvaco, have formed ArborGen to test eucalyptus that has been engineered for cold-tolerance and other traits in the southern U.S.

There are a number of potential benefits, particularly for the timber industry. However, the CBD suit alleges that USDA did not fully evaluate the risk of the introduced species becoming invasive along with other potential negative environmental consequences. Projects to selectively breed eucalyptus for use in the U.S. have been underway for some time, but the introduction of engineered genes could pose unique risks for impacts on surrounding species and ecosystems.

Additional discussion is available here, here, and here.



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