Living Carbon, a biotech company, believes its seedlings could help in the fight against climate change. Genetically modified trees grow much faster and collect CO2.
Some time ago, half a dozen workers planted rows of twig-like poplar trees in a low area of southern Georgia’s pine belt. However, these planted poplar trees, or rather their seedlings, are different in many respects. Because these seedlings have been genetically modified to grow faster.
Poplars may be the first genetically modified trees to be planted outside of a research trial or commercial orchard in the United States. Just as a new industry of genetically modified food crops emerged with the launch of the Flavr Savr tomato in 1994, tree growers hope to transform forestry.
Genetically Modified Trees Against Climate Change
Living Carbon, a San Francisco-based biotech company that produces poplars, aims to have its trees become a large-scale solution to climate change.
“There have been people telling us that it is impossible,” said Maddie Hall, the company’s co-founder and CEO. But he and his colleagues managed to find enough funding to invest $36 million in the four-year company, she. It should be noted that Maddie Hall took part in OpenAI’s ChatGPT model and has considerable connections in the technology community.
The company’s researchers used a not very innovative but effective technique known as the gene weapon method. With this method, the desired genes are injected into the poplar trees. The company also attracted the attention of critics. The Global Justice Ecology Project, an environmental group, described the company’s trees as “growing threats” to forests.
Living Carbon, on the other hand, has not yet published its data in a peer-reviewed journal. The company has tested its technologies and seedlings on a laboratory and greenhouse basis. “It has some encouraging results,” said Donald Ort, a geneticist at the University of Illinois. However, there is no certainty that greenhouse results will translate into real-world success.
They Grow 50 Percent Faster
Living Carbon focuses on the field of photosynthesis in the trees it develops. It is underlined that photosynthesis is inefficient from a biological point of view. Due to inefficiency, a small part of the solar energy falling on the leaves of the plants is converted into energy. This inefficiency also limits the growth rate of trees and other plants and the amount of carbon dioxide they absorb.
Living Carbon’s trees are already planted in the forest. However, they are planted next to native trees such as frankincense, tulip trees and bald cypress to avoid the genetically identical tree stands known as monocultures. The purpose of planting the trees has been explained as experimental observation. These trees were designed to grow 50 percent faster than those that had not been genetically modified for five months in the greenhouse.
Could Be A Savior for the Forest Industry
Unlike fast-growing pines, hardwoods grown in such bottomlands produce wood so slowly that a landlord may only harvest once in a lifetime. With more than 25,000 acres of woodland in Georgia, Vince Stanley hopes Living Carbon’s “exclusive saplings” will allow him to grow trees at the bottom and make money faster, calling it a “total win-win.” In addition, the US Forest Service, which plants large numbers of trees each year, is currently silent on whether it will use genetically modified trees. Finally, it should be noted that all genetically modified trees are female, so they will not produce pollen.