Paper Industry Tests Genetically Altered Trees
June 9, 2010
The commercial paper industry plans to plant forests of genetically altered eucalyptus trees in seven Southern states, reports the Associated Press. ArborGen, a biotechnology venture affiliated with three large paper companies, received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for field trials involving as many as 250,000 trees planted at 29 sites during the next few years. Much smaller lots of the genetically altered trees have been growing in some of the states for years. Australian eucalyptus trees grow faster than native hardwoods and produce high-quality pulp perfect for paper production, but so far, they have been able to thrive only in very warm climates. South Carolina-based ArborGen genetically altered the trees to withstand freezing temperatures, and the idea with the test forests is to see how far north they can now be grown. The test sites will cover a total of about 300 acres in Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana. They can grow about 25 feet per year and be ready to harvest in less than three years. ArborGen is a joint venture of International Paper, MeadWestvaco and Rubicon Ltd.