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BioDev 2000 GE (Mutant) Trees Workshop

truffler1635 at my-deja.com truffler1635 at my-deja.com
Sat Apr 8 12:00:05 EST 2000

In article <38EE923B.2531A970 at daviesand.com>,
  Karl Davies <karl at daviesand.com> wrote:
> Posted to alt.forestry, bionet.agroforestry, saf-news, nefr-list.  These
> notes are also on the web at
> http://www.daviesand.com/Perspectives/Forest_Health/Mutant_Trees/.
> BioDevastation 2000 Conference
> Genetically Engineered (Mutant) Trees Workshop
> March 26, 2000
> Orin Langelle, Native Forest Network (http://www.nativeforest.org/),
> Action for Community and Ecology in the Regions of Central America
> (ACERCA) (http://www.acerca.org/)
> Mick Petrie, Native Forest Network (http://www.nativeforest.org/)
> Alvaro Gonzalez Gervasio, World Rainforest Movement
> (http://www.wrm.org.uy/)
> Ricarda Steinbrecher, Women's Environmental Network
> (http://www.gn.apc.org/wen/)
> Orin Langelle
> Many eucalyptus plantations in Chiapas Mexico now use mutant tree
> material.  New propagation technologies have made these trees easy to
> produce.  The primary market is for pulp for paper to be used in the
> maquilladoro factories further north in Mexico.  Most tree selections
> are Roundup-Ready and/or Bt toxic.
> Part of the purpose of NAFTA was to open up Mexico and other southern
> countries to transnational paper companies for planting mutant trees.
> Community land titles were handed over to corporations for them to use
> as they chose.
> Intellectual property rights protected by NAFTA and the WTO allow paper
> companies to patent their mutant trees and thereby protect their
> investments in them.
> The US pulp and paper industry is rapidly going mutant.  International
> Paper, Westvaco and other corporations have allied themselves with
> Monsanto to produce herbicide-tolerant trees for international markets.
> Shell Oil, BP and Toyota are also on the scene planting mutant trees for
> carbon credits.
> Alvaro Gonzales
> New mutant plantations are displacing indigenous peoples.  Plantations
> are on former agricultural land and on cutover forest land.  Non-mutant
> trees are also being planted on a large scale.  Mutant trees are the
> most recent extension of industrial forestry.
> They're mostly pulp plantations: eucalyptus and oil palm (particularly
> in Southeast Asia).  There are also carbon sink plantations being used
> for pollution/carbon offsets.  There's no scientific basis to the claims
> that these plantations really do offset carbon emissions.  Some teak and
> other hardwoods are being planted too, but not so much because there's
> still a lot left in native forests.
This is obviously false. The difference between carbon sequestration in
trees vs. annual plants is a matter of time: trees sequester CO2 for
years, plants for usually 1 year or less, depending on latitude.

While trees cannot remove all the added CO2 produced by increased fossil
fuel emissions, they still remove CO2 for longer-term than another other
vector, except perhaps CaC04.
> Rapidly growing trees rapidly deplete soils.  Whole tree harvesting
> leaves little organic material to go back into the soil.  It's likely
> that after a few rotations of these trees, soils will be drastically
> reduced in their abilities to support any kind of plant growth.
Rapidly growing trees may deplete some soils. Mycorrhizal fungi which
allow most trees to exist, actually create humus, recycle nutrients and
leach nutrients from rock. This is called soil building. While the above
statement may be true in some areas, it certainly doesn't apply
> Mick Petrie
> There has been a huge increase in the amount of mutant tree research
> worldwide over the past few years.  Most of it is by Monsanto and by
> joint venture companies, such as IP-Monsanto, ForBio-Monsanto and other
> new ventures.
> The $400 billion global annual wood trade is the driving force.  NAFTA
> and the WTO have helped to facilitate this trade and the creation of the
> joint ventures by reducing regulation, by opening up national markets,
> by protecting proprietary technologies.
> US consumers use 800 pounds per year of paper products.  Consumers in
> other nations use considerably less, but the huge demand is driving the
> planting of mutant plantations in many third world/southern nations.
> Herbicide tolerance is the primary area of research at this time.  Most
> of this research is driven by Monsanto, which has identified the enzymes
> that block susceptibility to its glyphosate (Roundup) herbicide.
> Herbicide tolerant trees allow heavy use of Roundup to control
> competition with weeds during the trees' early development.
> Bt production is also very important.  Trees engineered with Bt have the
> toxic product of the bacteria in all cells.  Ingestion of the toxin by
> soil micro-organisms has been shown to kill these life forms as well as
> the insects that eat leaves and twigs.
> Low lignin content is a high research priority because one third of the
> dry weight of wood is lignin, which cannot be used by the pulp industry.
> Of course lignin gives trees their rigid structure.  This has led to
> fears of "wobbly mutant trees."
I'd like to see a citation on this figure. I suspect lignin production
is a factor of tree growth: slower growing trees tend to produce more
lignin. This is especially true in stressed trees, such as those growing
in acid-rain areas. In the PNW lignin is typically found in heartwood.
Most young trees have little or no heartwood here until they are over 30
years old. And not all 30-year-old trees fall from lignin deficiencies.
> Rapid growth is another desirable trait for obvious reasons.  Some
> eucalypti are ready for harvest in as little as 4-5 years.    But these
> trees deplete soil nutrients very rapidly, and they can even negatively
> impact local hydrological regimes.
Eucalypti certainly are not the preferred tree for all areas. But where
they can grow, they shade soils which are less prone to erosion. The
added humus increases soil development and increases soil micro-
organisms. In general, trees pull nutrients from deep in the ground
instead of surface soil feeders, such as forbes and grasses.
> Bioremediation is another research focus, to develop trees that will
> remove toxic metals and other pollutants from the soil.  Some studies
> have indicated that these trees may simply move the metals from the soil
> into the air through trees' leaves.  But even if the trees do sequester
> the metals, what's to be done with the wood?
Why not use it? Trees wall toxic material away in heartwood. For
example, in nature dioxin is typically sequestered in heartwood. Some
trees use this to good effect, for example Western Red cedar is quite
fond of dioxin, and it part of the reason the wood is so sought after:
it rots slowly if at all.
> Sterilization techniques have been sought to calm down the public about
> concerns that the above traits will move into wild species through
> horizontal gene transfer.  As yet, these efforts have been
> unsuccessful.  But if successful, these ventures will produce trees that
> will have no flowers or seed, and will be barren for insects, birds and
> other animals.
Just because a tree can be grown doesn't mean it should be grown. A
rapid-growing Eucalpytus in Australia may be a wonderful source of food
for many animal, plant and insect live. The same tree grown in Alaska is
unlikely to survive a year. Even here in Oregon, Eucalyptus is not very
hardy, since sudden temperature drops can effectively kill the tree,
even if the temperature doesn't drop to freezing.
> The solution to all the problems of mutant trees is quite simple, but
> quite difficult: 1) Prohibit patenting of any and all life forms.  2)
> Force biotech corporations to prove no harm from their inventions.
There is no reason not to patent hybrid plant life. How do you think
most of the world is fed? Hybridization becomes new plant forms.
> Ricarda Steinbrecher
> Mutant research is being done on approximately 35 different tree
> species.  Some species are relatively easy to mutate, such as poplars.
MUTATE? I'd call is cross-pollination. Better review your first-year
botany again. Consider studying Gregor Mendel too.
> But most other species are more difficult to mutate.  Mutant methods are
> moving ahead quickly.
> Trees are much more difficult to mutate than other plants because
> different genetic traits make them susceptible to different insects and
> diseases at different stages in their developments.  Also, trees are
> subject to more stresses over longer periods of time than other plants.
> Unlike annual plants, they have to withstand cold winter temperatures,
> drought and/or dry growing sites, ice/snow/wind storms.
Only certain tree species do. Each is specific to certain conditions.
> Cloned plantations are prone to devastating losses due to insects and
> diseases because, even though they may be engineered to withstand
> certain stresses, such as attacks by certain insects or diseases, there
> are always other insects and diseases cannot be anticipated.
That _may_ be true, although it certainly hasn't been documented at
present. I'd be more worried about the transference of endophytic fungi
between tree species, along with the spread of toxic mycorrhizal fungi.
Speaking of which, how are these "mutant" trees grown without also
growing mycorrhizal fungi?
> Research results indicating problems with mutant trees have been
> censored by university and corporate researchers.  One prominent
> university researcher is known to have publicly warned a PhD student
> against publishing research results that would have been harmful to the
> interests of the researcher's corporate sponsors.
An interesting premise. I'm sure it could happen. But I'd like to hear
specific cases instead of generalities. Science thrives on citations,
not annecdotes.
> Anti-Mutant Tree Campaign
> Greenpeace, Native Forest Network and Rainforest Action Network are all
> working on papers describing the dangers of mutant trees.  These papers
> will be available soon.
> An international conference on mutant trees should be organized as soon
> as possible.
> Lawsuits should be initiated, particularly against those corporations
> that are selling Bt toxic trees because of their potential for damage to
> beneficial insects and soil micro-organisms.
First of all, Bt is not toxic, unless you are an insect. Bt is found in
soils already, which is where it was located to begin with. Please do
more research. Your terminology needs to be better defined.
> Boycotts of mutant paper products should be initiated.  Sources of
> non-mutant paper should be identified and supported.
> Test plots of mutant trees should be identified through Freedom of
> Information Act requests to all universities that may be involved in
> this research.
> Internet web sites should be set up to provide information.  Forestry
> and environmental newsgroups and listservs should be used to disseminate
> information.
> Web Sites
> The Orchard of Dr Moreau...
> http://www.corporatewatch.org/cw9mag/pages/cw9gm3.html
> The Next GM Threat: Frankenstein Forests
> The Ecologist July 1999
> By Hugh Warwick
> http://www.rage.org.nz/ge-trees.html
> MUTANT TREES ON THE HORIZON a BAN report on genetically engineered trees
> By the Bioengineering Action Network
> http://www.tao.ca/~ban/100treesreport.htm
> GM Technology in the Forest Sector
> A Scoping Study for WWF
> Forestry-biotech joint ventures
> http://www.panda.org/resources/publications/forest/gm-forestry.html
> Genetically Engineered Trees
> By Keith Parkins September 1999
> http://www.heureka.clara.net/gaia/gentrees.htm
> Supertrees: ForBio of Australia is engineering better trees.
> The potential gain is enormous.
> August 10, 1998
> By Bob Johnstone
> http://www.tao.ca/~ban/898MSforbestrees.htm
> Gene science takes to the trees
> By Robert Gottliebsen
> http://www.brw.com.au/content/301198/BRW09.htm
> "Firms Work on Building a Better Tree, Pine Clones"
> Tim Friend
> USA Today
> December 20, 1997
> http://www.biotech-info.net/pineclones.html
> --
> Karl Davies, Practicing Forester
> http://www.daviesand.com
> Northeastern Forestry Reformation List Server
> http://www.igc.topica.com/lists/nefr-list
Daniel B. Wheeler

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