America has long embraced the wide use and consumption of genetically modified or GM foods in daily life. But now, there seems to be a new buzz in the air about using the benefits of genetically modifying trees to increase the rate of growth in the United State’s southeastern forests.
A proposition has been made to replace current native pine trees in plantation forests with a genetically modified form of eucalyptus trees. The original strain of these trees has become wildly successful in dominating the Australian timber industry and the hope is that this change will revolutionize the production speed of the American timber industry. This change is being fueled by a couple of the largest industry corporations namely, International Paper Co. and MeadWestvaco Corp.
There are some immediate fears that may prevent these corporations from making a speedy transition into these GM forests. Those are fears of introducing a large number of strong GM invasive species into America’s forests. It is possible that these trees may slowly overtake their native neighbors and leave us with only these GM trees as the bulk of our forest composition. However, the companies have taken this into consideration and as a solution are consulting with ArborGen LLC, a biotechnical engineering company. ArborGen has assured the industry companies that their plants will be genetically modified to be incapable of reproduction, freeze resistant and very efficient. However, doubts remain as to whether or not this inhibited reproduction system is ready to be responsibly implemented in the large scale.
There are many questions about how such a strong species can be completely sterilized 100% of the time, as well as other concerns regarding the land that will be consumed in the creation of these forests. However, the push for GM forestation is one that the industry sees as necessary if America’s timber industry is to compete with those of South America and Australia who have already made the switch to these sorts of forest plantations. In the coming months, the continuing debate over this issue will shed some light on the future of GM agriculture on American soil.
Discussion question: How might the corporate interests in this change create a monopoly in the industry?
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