Genetically modified food is certainly a well known issue, but genetically modified trees? Not so much. But nevertheless they are being developed, and at the UN Convention of Biodiversity, in Hyderabad, India, a coalition of green groups is urging a global ban on them.
The forestry industry is developing GM trees for use in its industrial plantations, in order to achieve trees that can grow faster, have reduced lignin content for production of paper or agrofuels, are insect or fertilizer resistant, or can grow in colder temperatures. This research is aimed at increasing their own profits while exacerbating the already known and very serious impacts of large scale tree plantations on local communities and biodiversity.
Beyond any corporate concerns, the environmental concern being raised is that trees with less lignin would be actually more prone to pest attacks, rot more quickly, and alter soil structure, as well as carbon storage potential, releasing more greenhouse gases.
The ban being urged isn't heading off some future problem. Proposals for GM tree production have been put forward for bioenergy production in the southern US and the Pacific Northwest.