Genetically engineered trees and the lifeless forest

Genetically Engineered Trees







Genetic engineering (GE) of our food supply amounts to a massive science experiment being performed on mankind, without consent or full disclosure. Although the biotech industry continues to claim GE products are safe, the truth is that no one knows what the long-term effects will be, because no one has done the necessary studies.

The loudest proponents of GE are the ones who stand to profit the most, and they don’t seem terribly concerned about the human or environmental costs.

What do we know for certain? We know genetic engineering is riddled with unpredictable effects so we should expect the unexpected.

You may not realise that this reckless genetic experimentation is not limited to your food supply. Besides being used to create drugs and Frankenfish, they’ve also created vaccine-containing bananas, goats that produce spider silk in their milk, venomous cabbage, chemotherapy chicken eggs, and even glow-in-the-dark cats.

As creepy as some of these things are, the application that may have the greatest potential for global disaster are GE trees created to serve the desires of the paper industry.

Deforestation is already an enormous problem, and the last thing we need is to further stress our precious native forests and the flora and fauna that depend on them.

The documentary featured below discusses how GE trees may adversely impact ecological systems on a grand scale, with potentially catastrophic effects. A Silent Forest: The Growing Threat, Genetically Engineered Trees is hosted by Dr. David Suzuki, an award-winning geneticist and author of 52 books.

Threat to Native Forests
As Dr. Suzuki explains, the problem with genetic engineering has to do with the fact that GE plants and animals are created using horizontal gene transfer (also called horizontal inheritance), as contrasted with vertical gene transfer, which is the mechanism in natural reproduction.

Vertical gene transfer, or vertical inheritance, is the transmission of genes from the parent generation to offspring via sexual or asexual reproduction, i.e., breeding a male and female from one species.
By contrast, horizontal gene transfer involves injecting a gene from one species into a completely different species, which yields unexpected and often unpredictable results. Proponents of GE assume they can apply the principles of vertical inheritance to horizontal inheritance, and according to Dr. Suzuki, this assumption is flawed in just about every possible way and is just lousy science.
Genes don’t function in a vacuum they act in the context of the entire genome. Whole sets of genes are turned on and off in order to arrive at a particular organism, and the entire orchestration is an activated genome.

It’s a dangerous mistake to assume a gene’s traits are expressed properly, regardless of where they’re inserted. The safety of GE is only a hypothesis, and in science, initial hypotheses typically end up being wrong. GE foods are promoted as if they’ve been found to be safe, which is the farthest thing from the truth.

Why this rush to apply this science before testing it? The simple answer is, those promoting it stand to profit enormously from it. The timber, pulp, bioenergy, and fruit industries are rushing ahead with GE trees, with only their paydays in mind. As the film states :

Genetic engineering of trees is the greatest threat to the native forests since the invention of the chain saw.

Why Genetically Engineer Trees?
Trees as being genetically engineered to give them unnatural characteristics, such as the ability to kill insects, tolerate toxic herbicides, grow abnormally fast, or have altered wood composition. The paper pulp industry has to remove lignin from wood pulp before it can be used to make paper, which is an expensive part of the process. So, the biotech industry is working to create trees with lower lignin content. The problem is, lignin is what gives trees their structural integrity.

It’s what allows trees to stand strong in wind and other weather, and to withstand diseases and damage from insect and animal browsing. Low lignin trees are weaker and less able to withstand these environmental stresses.

Fruit trees are being genetically engineered for disease resistance. However, contamination of wild and organic fruit trees by genetically altered DNA has already had devastating consequences on nearby groves. For example, GE papaya plantations have contaminated much of the organic and wild papaya trees in Hawaii.Nearly 20,000 papaya seeds from the Big Island and Oahu revealed GMO contamination. Eighty percent of the seeds tested were from organic farms, and the remainder were from wild trees and backyard gardens.

Contamination with GE DNA has caused many organic Hawaiian papaya growers to lose their plantations and/or their organic certification. Hawaiian GE papayas have now begun developing black spot fungus, so they have to be heavily sprayed with toxic fungicides every 10 days.

This is so typical of what happens to GE plants they are weaker and more susceptible to disease and end up needing massive amounts of chemicals, usually in the form of herbicides and pesticides
It is crucial to have an alternative to the increasingly pervasive GMO technology as the list of adverse health effects from these toxic chemicals is growing all the time. For example, the herbicide glyphosate (the active agent in Roundup) has been linked to miscarriages, premature births, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The Spread of Seed and Pollen Is Uncontrollable
Genetically engineered trees vastly differ from other annual GE crops like corn and soybeans because trees can live for decades and even centuries in the wild. Once GE trees escape the confines of their plantation, they are extremely difficult to eradicate.

Disrupting forest ecosystems endangers the health of the entire planet. Native forests have been called the lungs of the earth, providing food and wildlife habitats everywhere. Forests absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, filter water and release it back into the atmosphere. Many tree species, such as pines and poplars, can spread their pollen and seeds over great distances. Pollen can blow hundreds or even thousands of miles, opening the door for native forests to be dusted with GE pollen.
The contaminating of native forests is both inevitable and irreversible, according to the Global Justice Ecology organisation.

Industry’s Answer to Cross-Contamination : The Terminator Gene
The biotech industry realised tree contamination would be a problem, so they developed the terminator gene. This gene causes the plant to produce a toxin that’s supposed to prevent its seeds from being viable, thereby preventing cross-contamination. Like the Terminator’s promise I’ll be back, Mother Nature trumps human ingenuity when it comes to nature’s drive to reproduce. Even the originators of the terminator gene admit it’s impossible to ensure 100 percent sterility.

The problem is, even a small amount of slippage can spread sterility to our native forests.
Consider the scenario of a native forest sitting adjacent to a GE tree plantation. Once contaminated, 95 percent of the native forest trees may become sterile, meaning they would produce no nuts, no seeds, no fruit, and no flowers or pollen. This renders the forest uninhabitable to native wildlife and rapidly degrades the soil. This phenomenon is already being seen around the 100 to 150 GE tree test plots in the southern part of the US.

Monsanto’s ArborGen
GE tree plantations may threaten to destroy global ecosystems and local farmers livelihoods, but they promise to make the biotech industry rich. Genetically engineered trees and other crops become the property of the company that patented the seeds from which they grew. Monsanto has stolen more than 15 million dollars from farmers whose crops were contaminated by no fault of their own.

Once a farmer’s crop is contaminated, they can be sued by Monsanto, which manufactures the majority of the world’s GE seed. Even if only one percent of the crop is contaminated, patent law dictates that Monsanto gains possession of 100 percent of the crop. If this patent law goes unchallenged, ALL of the world’s natural resources could end up owned exclusively by biotech industry magnates.

The majority of GE research and development on trees has come from a company called ArborGen, the industrial love child from a tryst between Monsanto, International Paper, Westvaco and Fletcher Forests.Although Monsanto dropped out of the partnership early on, ties between Monsanto and ArborGen remain.

Further Study
GE Trees Threaten Ecosystem Collapse

Tags : ArborGen, biotech, Fruit Trees, GE DNA, GE Trees, International Paper, Lignin, Monsanto, Roundup, Terminator Gene, Westvaco