GM trees in US
1st November, 2007
The US government has given he go-ahead for a test plot of genetically modified (GM) eucalyptus trees in Alabama. For the first time, these trees will be allowed to flower and set seed, opening the door to potential widespread contamination of the American South.
Some of the trees are genetically engineered by biotech firm ArborGen for cold tolerance, others with ‘confidential’ traits. Published articles and industry reports indicate these traits may include the ability to kill insects and reduced lignin. Lignin gives trees strength and enables them to take up water.
The permit for the flowering GM eucalyptus was approved by APHIS (the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, a sub-department of the US Department of Agriculture). The approval follows APHIS’s grant of non-regulated status for the GM pox-resistant ‘Honeysweet’ plum, which the USDA itself helped develop. Non-regulated status is given on the basis that APHIS has decided that the plant does not present a risk of introduction or dissemination of a plant pest. Deregulation of the GM plum marked the first commercial release of a GM temperate tree in the US. It occurred in spite of the fact public comments against the proposal to deregulate the plum outnumbered those in favour by 100 to 1.
APHIS has also approved the largest-ever release in the US of GM poplars, some modified for reduced stature and light response, others for altered lignin content and others to result in a...
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