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Thread: Genetically Engineered Forests and Wood

  1. #1

    Genetically Engineered Forests and Wood

    I just read an interesting article on genetically engineered forests. Maybe some of you have heard of this and maybe some of you have not. Basically this is beyond grafting a few similar trees to make new trees, but genetically altering them so the good traits of one tree species are added so that a whole new tree is created.

    I must be pretty dumb because it took me reading half the article before I realized I have, and have been growing, twelve acres of these Genetically Engineered trees for the last 15 years.

    The article comes from the environmentalist side and feels these trees will invade the eco system and native forest and ruin them. I disagree as the GE trees I have, just won't grow anywhere but in a plantation onto their own. They just can't survive in a native forests, but excell at growing in former pasture and crop ground. In fact I planted my tress in 1994 and was told to harvest them this year by a forester. They are 10 inches in diameter and 50 feet hight which is pretty good growth for a tree.

    The trees I have are Japanese Larch and have some unique properties. They grow fast and have the life-span equivalent of pressure treated wood without the nature preservative. Most are used to make wooden flooring in peoples homes, as well as posts and framing lumber to replace pressure-treated wood.

    So my question is, as woodworkers how would you feel about using GE trees in your workshop?

    My take is, no matter if I am using them for framing lumber, flooring or even to sell to the paper companies to make paper, I have grown 320 cords of wood in 13 years that never existed before.

    Here is a link to that GE newspaper article for those that are interested...

    http://www.alternet.org/environment/58477/
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  2. #2
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    kinda hard to say what`s worse travis....genetic engineered trees or trees grown on plantations fed rich mixtures of vitamins and growth additives sprayed with fungicides and insecticides their entire life......there`s really no telling where the majority of lumber i cut comes from? most is domestic hardwood but to say it was grown au-natural and was never manuplitated by man untill harvest would be a far strech of anyones imagination...
    a tree hugger i ain`t.....if somebody could figure out how to clone curly cherry that`d have fantastic color and dramatic figure in 6 months on the moon i`d build with it so long as i could afford to buy it...
    tod
    [SIZE="1"] associated with several importers and manufacturers.[/SIZE]

  3. #3
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    I've been working with Lyptus for a couple of years and love the look, feel, and weight of the wood. Knowing it's plantation grown, grows fast, and has been bred for specific traits is a plus for me - not a negative. Yes, I work for the company that grows the stuff, but that really dosen't affect my viewpoint. It's neat wood and would be even if our competitor grew it!
    “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk

  4. #4
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    Tossing out any new phrase then planting the seeds of fear around that phrase is a standard tactic of nutsos environmentalists. Genetically engineered products have not been shown to be harmful to anything. Granted, they have not yet been proven to be completely safe either. Hybrid, grafting and other methods have been around for many decades, all that is, technically, genetic engineering. I believe that some very sophisitcated methods for developing better pinapple was developed more than a century and a half ago. Use the wood. Don't sweat it unless definitive scientific proof comes along that there is a problem.
    "Folks is funny critters."

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

  5. #5
    There was a movie a bunch of years ago about geneticly engineered plants that would clone your body and take over your mind whilst you slept. As for what Franks says, I go along with ....Just don't sleep in your shop.

    There are some toxic trees out there but most are ornimental or have some special figured or colored wood that we are willing to risk the results to be able to make something from the beauty of that tree. But to worry about working with a new species is sort of like saying it is a Communist plot to re-engineer a species and the toxins will make all WWers curl up and die, leaving the Capitalistic world w/o woodgoods and slowly decline as a civilization leaving the world to their control w/o firing a single shot.

  6. #6
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    Hi Travis - My last project was from reclaimed wine vat oak, and I touched a bit on the very subject of wood designed specifically for harvesting in one of my responses. There's certainly no harm in growing it and using it that I know of, although my personal preference is for the more varied appearance of the natural varieties of old growth trees. I really like the idea of growing and dropping my own trees for lumber though....it's got to be pretty cool to make something from a tree that you grew!
    Last edited by scott spencer; 08-15-2007 at 03:31 PM.
    Got Wood?

  7. #7
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    Frank, I respectfully disagree with most of what you said! Of course maybe I'm a 'nutsos'

    Genetic engineering is dramatically different than grafting, hybridizing, selective breding, etc. All of our former methods of creating 'new' plants or animals are a form of natural selection (Darwin, dudes!). Out of thousands (or millions) of offspring from a cross, we pick ones that have characteristics we want. Cross two corn types, raise millions of plants, keep and propagate the one that is sweet, makes big ears and is resistant to rust. It's complicated and lots of work but we are starting with nothing but corn and ending with corn. We are directing a natural process.

    GE takes the genetic material from one organism and inserts it in another. The organisms don't have to be related - they don't even have to be in the same kingdom! THIS CAN NOT HAPPEN IN NATURE. We are redirecting a natural process.

    Using the corn example above, take corn, insert genetic material from a bacteria or an animal. Produce corn that makes it's own insecticide! On the surface this sounds good. Would you like to eat corn that contains insecticide? How about eating cattle fed this corn? What effects does this have on beneficial insects?

    Is it safe? I don't know!

    Do I trust the government and big business to tell me the truth? Well, let's see, they have ALWAYS told the truth so I'll believe them now -- NOT!!

    Are there any longterm negative effects? Ecosystems are so complex there is no way to tell if these GE experiments will cause havoc in the next 10, 20 or 30 years.

    Sorry about the rant, I'll get off the soapbox (for now ).

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Fusco View Post
    Tossing out any new phrase then planting the seeds of fear around that phrase is a standard tactic of nutsos environmentalists. Genetically engineered products have not been shown to be harmful to anything. Granted, they have not yet been proven to be completely safe either. Hybrid, grafting and other methods have been around for many decades, all that is, technically, genetic engineering. I believe that some very sophisitcated methods for developing better pinapple was developed more than a century and a half ago. Use the wood. Don't sweat it unless definitive scientific proof comes along that there is a problem.

  8. #8
    John - While I do not necessarily disagree (or agree) with much of your sentiment, genetics are big and complicated and usually badly reported in most media.

    The problem with statements like "this cannot happen in nature" is that nature is very, very big and "cannot" is a very imprecise word to use against it. I am not by any regards an expert but I do read a lot in this area and am particularly interested in evolutionary theory. The idea that genetic material organises itself discretely into kingdoms is just wrong. Man orders the effects of gentic material into "kingdoms" for his own purposes. A reasonable proportion of the genetic material of a man and a banana are identical. Nature made it that way. Homo sapiens and bananas are fairly easy to seperate taxonomically. Genetic material doesn't know (or care) about speciation.

    The difference between genetic engineering and selective breeding is about precision and speed. The downside to genetic engineering is its capacity to create a modified organism in a single generation which may have unforeseen negative characteristics. Selective breeding only produces its unforeseen negative characteristics more slowly. The upside to genetic engineering is that it can produce foreseen and desired characteristics more reliably and quicker.

    I sometimes think that the reason people trust selective breeding is that it is done by farmers not scientists and nobody ever made a Bond movie with a mad farmer as the villian.

    I do not have a dog in this fight. I do not work for, sell or use GE material as far as I am aware but neither would I resist doing so if it offered a better alternative.
    Last edited by Ian Barley; 08-15-2007 at 02:45 PM. Reason: spooling mistook

  9. #9
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    John, I only wish to deliberately offend the real "nutsos". Not you. I consider myself a good environmentalist. But I probably wouldn't meet the standards of others. No matter. You are probably a good one without going over the nusto edge. My concern that extremists can interject fear into almost any issue and get wisespread media coverage easier than level heads can is, I believe, valid. You have the scientific background. I don't. We both agree that there is still no proof that g-e products are beneficial/harmful to humans. But, they have been around long enough, I believe that if they were harmful some solid facts would have emerged by now. In Arkansas, and I'm sure many other states, entire shipments of corn have been rejected by foriegn countries because very tiny percentages of the product were found to contain some g-e kernels. This without any evidence that they might be harmful. That extremism wanders well into the 'nutso' world, IMHO.
    "Folks is funny critters."

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

  10. #10
    I was hoping to keep this conversation contained to Genetically Engineered Forest Products and not agricultural products as that subject is very tenacious as it is something we eat. I will however admit, that as dairy farmers, we do grow corn that is genetically engineered and really like how we can produce a crop for our cows more easily and readily.

    To me anyway, and maybe as a landowner who grows GE forest products, I am biased in saying this, I felt the article was filled with doomsday predictions. The GE trees I grow, Japense Larch, also known as Hackmatack, cannot grow in anything other than clearcuts and old crop ground. With these trees anyway, they can invade my other 300 acres of woodland because they just won't grow without being planted, or being out of a full-sun environment.

    One of these reasons I chose to plant this type of wood, was that the 12 acres I planted, were small fields. The farmer who rents my fields felt they were too small to harvest effectively with his big equipment. I could have chosen better wood to plant...that is wood that is destined for logs and sawmills like White Pine, Spruce, Ash or Oak. Instead I chose these because the growth period was so short. Its still good woodlot management however because I am growing some 300 cord of wood in addition tomy other wood types that grow naturally. In other words, while this GE wood will most likely be made into paper, I now have the option of letting some 300 cord of Pine, Fir, Spruce or Hemlock grow up and have the potential to become big enough for logs. That is good for all woodworkers, carpenters, home contractors and other homeowners.

    For those that are interested, I currently have three types of tree plantations. A white Pine tree plantation, a Black Spruce plantation and the Hackmatack Plantation. You can see some pictures of what these tree plantations look like, and some descriptions of them via this link:

    http://www.railroadmachinist.com/WDL_Trees.html
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

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