Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, January 25, 2008

Transgenic trees: destroying biodiversity

The issue of transgenic trees, which are genetically modified to help promote the lumbering and paper pulp industries, is a growing area of concern due to the trees’ negative environmental impact, according to a recent briefing from the World Rainforest Movement.

Transgenic trees can be made resistant to insects, herbicides, and fungi; and altered to tolerate lower temperatures and long drought periods. They are also designed to grow faster and contain more cellulose, while producing less lignin. These characteristics greatly benefit paper companies, which spend countless dollars researching ways to improve tree quality.

To the paper industry, transgenic trees are the answer for the diminishing forest population. Thousands of these genetically altered organisms can be planted to make new “forests” that in turn are cut down for paper services. However, to the ecosystem in and around the forest, transgenic trees are more of a burden than an answer, WRM says.

The growth in transgenic tree cultivation also has a negative impact on biodiversity, according to the group. Among other concerns, they cite the fact that the trees are not healthy for any living life form and cause potential hazards if ingested.

The transgenic tree issue is of great relevance in Viet Nam, where large agricultural corporations are using a method known as monoculture, destroying parts of the highly diverse rainforest and planting groves of a single species of tree. A large-scale introduction of transgenic trees would further exacerbate the problem.

WRM calls on the international community to help combat the expansion of tree monocultures and prevent transgenic trees from overtaking natural forests throughout the world.

For the full briefing, click here.


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