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Transgenic eucalyptus: why genetics have created this fast-growing monster
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If today there are few who can be surprised with genetically modified corn or soy, then not many people have heard about trees that have been improved by geneticists. Meanwhile, eucalyptus plantations, which were created as a result of laboratory experiments, already occupy vast areas in the United States.
Eucalyptus grows in regions with a warm tropical and subtropical climate. But they grow not only in the wild, but are among the most common trees grown by man. The inhabitants of the tropics cut down and burn their forests in order to plant the vacated space with eucalyptus trees. Such a picture can often be seen in Indonesia, Malaysia, on the islands of the Caribbean. Even in Spain, relict natural forests are cut down and eucalyptus trees are planted in their place.
What is all this tremendous amount of eucalyptus wood used for? For the production of furniture and building materials or to collect fruits and leaves? No, the world needs millions of eucalyptus trees for another - for making paper. Indeed, more than 1/3 of the whole world paper is made from eucalyptus wood. In general, almost any wood, both hardwood and softwood, is suitable for its production, but eucalyptus paper is of high quality and is in high demand in the world market. The simplicity of cultivation and the high quality of the final product and determined the choice of most companies in favor of eucalyptus.
The plantations of experimental eucalyptus caused a heated discussion in the USA, both among environmental scientists and in society. Researchers believe that plantations of genetically modified eucalyptus trees will have a negative impact on surrounding ecosystems. Seeds of these plants can be spread by wind over long distances, and that transgenic plants have spread in a remote area, scientists may find out too late.