The first genetically modified forest has been planted by timber companies in the southeast replacing native pine with eucalyptus. “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. andMeadWestvaco 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.”
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