Genetically Engineered Trees

Weyerhaeuser is funding the genetic manipulation of trees in order to increase the yield of its sprawling industrial tree plantations. Weyerhaeuser characterizes industrial scale tree farming as the future of forestry and currently owns 321,000 acre eucalyptus plantation in Uruguay and nearly 5 million acres in the U.S. Southeast. The United States Department of Agriculture has approved 126 field trials of GE trees to date. Many more field trials are taking place around the world.

The threat of GE'd trees interbreeding with wild trees is extreme. While many agricultural varieties are already quite different from their ancestors of thousands of years ago, this isn't the case with trees. And genetically engineered trees could easily become invasive. Faster growing, limp, low-lignin trees resistant to common pests could easily become a kudzu-like threat, moving into our national parks and forests and changing their character forever.

While Weyerhaeuser does not as yet profit from genetic engineering, it is involved in funding research and development through a number of low-profile projects. Two such project, the Tree Genetic Engineering Research Cooperative (TGERC) and the Plant Molecular Genetics Cooperative (PMGC) heavily fund and support genetically engineered tree research.