"FrankenTrees" On The March—Scientists Report Sequencing First Tree Genome


Researchers at 8 labs have collaborated to sequence all the genes of the black cottonwood tree. It is just the third plant to have all its genome completely sequenced. The others are rice and a tiny plant called arabidopsis. It turns out that cottonwoods have 45,000 genes compared to between 20,000 and 25,000 for humans.

According to the New York Times:

Today, the black cottonwood is still considered '"wild,'" even though it's grown for lumber and pulp. Fifteen years from now, fully domesticated varieties of the tree, optimally tuned to grow faster and longer, better resist insects and disease and require less water and nutrients, could be growing like any other crop on tree farms spread across large regions of the United States, researchers said.

Naturally, to anti-biotech activists, such genetically improved trees are the moral equivalent of the carnivorous walking plants in the classic sci-fi novel The Day of the Triffids. Environmental activist David Suzuki has released a "documentary," A Silent Forest, to detail the alleged horrors of Frankentrees. Activists are now pushing the United Nations to impose a global moratorium on planting trees engineered to produce more lumber, more paper pulp, and ethanol for fuel—trees that would ultimately spare more wild forests from the axe.