Perspective Magazine examines Falsehoods Behind Engineering Trees for Profit

engineering trees for profit

A March 15 2023 Perspective article by Wade Graham examines how the the tree-planting carbon offset market, which is worth billions and a key component of net-zero strategies, is based on falsehoods.

Graham focuses on Living Carbon’s claim that its genetically engineered poplars grow 50% faster than wild poplars, allowing the trees to sequester 50%  more CO2 in the same amount of time as wild poplars. Living Carbon’s evidence to this claim is highly questionable. It is based on a single, five-month observations of seedlings in a greenhouse and there are no peer-reviewed papers, and no field trials.

Graham also wrote how Living Carbon skirted regulations and effectively snuck around safety guardrails by using an older, more crude gene transfer method than current technologies, in order to take advantage of a since-closed loophole in US government safety regulations to rush the trees into the ground.”

Graham also noted that we remain fundamentally ignorant of understanding what happens in the complexity of natural systems:

We are only beginning to learn how complex forests are, how trees are bound together with microorganisms, fungi, and other trees and plants in enormous, hyper-complex webs of nutrients and communications operating at molecular levels. These mechanisms, like photosynthesis, were honed by evolution over the entire history of life on Earth. Who are we to say they are inefficient and must be improved?

He added a quote from National Park founder John Muir:

When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.”

Carbon offsetting is also based on the trees storing the carbon and not being cut.  Living Carbon’s GE poplars could appeal to landowners through its promise to half the normal timber rotation – meaning the trees will be cut and will not, in fact, be storing carbon.

Graham also wrote how the entire carbon offset market is highly questionable. A recent investigation has shown that 90% of offsets certified by the world’s largest forestry carbon offset certifier, Verra, have been ineffective in genuinely reducing carbon due to poor design, execution, and absence of maintenance.

You can read the entire March 15, 2023 article, Engineering trees for profit, written by Wade Graham, on the Perspective website.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: The Campaign to STOP GE Trees  has previously written about Living Carbon. Listen to Researcher Jutta Kill Debunk Carbon Offsets in the February 2nd, 2023, Earth Watch Podcast.


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