Evaluating the risks against the potential gain from this science can aid us in reaching a reasonable conclusion about the safety of engineered trees and the caution needed to pursue this science.
The possibility of genetically engineered paper has been possible since 1998 when a team of researchers at Michigan State University engineered an aspen tree to produce higher-grade paper pulp (Lubick). The economic pressure to initiate large-scale transgenic tree plantations is enormous and according to Lubick, "[...] trees are the next big crop plant". The paper and lumber industry stands to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from the increased pulp and wood production that is available from these trees (Lubick). The pressure from business, and the ability of the trees to cross pollinate for hundreds of miles, places us dangerously close to spreading the new genetic species globally on a massive scale.
Critics argue that once the new genetic strains are turned loose in the wild, there will be no turning back. Trees that create their own pesticides may kill off desirable insects and leave the forest unable to support wildlife ("Genetic Engineering"). Trees that are resistant to pests and disease may take over parks and national forests with a "kudzu-like threat" ("Genetic Engineering"). ...Show more