GE Trees Protest in Myrtle Beach. Photo: GJEP (2016)
Poplar plantations are known to emit a chemical called isoprene that contributes to air pollution. Researchers claim they have genetically engineered a new poplar tree that eliminates isoprene production, but offer no evidence that it is safe. The push to unleash genetically engineered trees – especially a native tree like a poplar that could contaminate wild relatives – before proving that they are safe completely undermines the precautionary principle. The risks to wildlife, forest ecosystems and human health are unknown and therefore the trees should not be released into the environment.
In a reiteration of his ongoing criticism of the certification of potentially harmful GE trees, researcher Steve Strauss, who announced the new #GMO tree said, “Sustainable forest management systems and their certifying bodies assume that genetically modified equates to dangerous. If something is a genetically modified organism, it’s guilty until proven safe in the minds of many and in our regulations today.” Strauss’s over-simplistic distortion of the Precautionary Principle, which seeks to ensure a novel product is safe before unleashing it on humans or the environment, is as reckless as his insistence that GE trees be unregulated.
Scientists Genetically Engineer Pollution-Free Poplar Tree
Breitbart News January 7, 2020
Scientists have engineered poplar trees to not harm air quality, according to a new study.
Like palms and eucalyptus trees, poplars emit isoprene. Their leaves produce the highly volatile chemical in response to stress, like rising temperatures and drought. The chemical triggers the production of other protective compounds. Because the leaves produce so much isoprene and the molecules are so volatile, some of the isoprene escapes into the air.
Poplar stands, grown to be harvested for biofuels, toilet paper, furniture and more, now cover 36,294 square miles of lands — double the amount of land they did 15 years ago. As a result, more isoprene is being leaked into the atmosphere.
Isoprene molecules react with sunlight to produce ozone, a respiratory irritant. It also encourages the production of atmospheric aerosols, fueling the formation of haze and boosting the greenhouse gas effect of methane.
Through lab experiments, scientists at the University of Arizona, Portland State University, Oregon State University and the Helmholtz Research Center in Munich, Germany, successfully modified the genes of poplar trees to suppress the production of isoprene.
In field tests, researchers planted and monitored the growth of the genetically engineered trees. The data, published this week in the journal PNAS, showed the lack of isoprene did not interfere with the trees’ photosynthesis of biomass production rates.
Even the genetically modified trees grown in Arizona, where the climate is hot and dry, grew healthy and tall.
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