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  • 25 February, 2023

  • 7 Min Read

Genetically Engineered Trees

Genetically Engineered Trees

  • The first genetically engineered trees in the United States have been planted in a low-lying region of the pine belt in southern Georgia.


  • Poplars have undergone genetic modification to increase their airborne carbon dioxide absorption and hasten wood growth.
  • The modified trees were created in an effort to tackle climate change by the biotechnology business Living Carbon, which has its headquarters in San Francisco.
  • Nonetheless, detractors have raised concern that more thorough research is still needed before commercial plantings may be authorised in order to understand the repercussions and long-term effects on native ecosystems.
  • GM trees cannot presently be grown commercially in India.

Historical background:

  • In 1988, scientists in Belgium began the first field trials with GE trees to develop faster-growing, herbicide-resistant poplar trees.
  • In an effort to combat the issue of deforestation, China began planting GE poplar trees on a commercial scale in 2002.
  • The first 300 hectares of GE trees were planted, but today China has enthusiastically embraced the technology and incorporated it into the forestry sector.
  • In Latin America, Brazil and Argentina are setting the bar for GM food crops and are creating GE trees to boost pulp and paper production.
  • According to a 1983 study, tobacco was the first crop plant to undergo genetic modification.

Genetically altered trees:

  • Genetically modified (GM) trees are those whose genes have been changed by the application of biotechnology.
  • Interventions are carried out to improve their abilities in the areas they desire, such as quick growth, disease resistance, or the ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • Foreign genes are inserted into the Genome of these trees using techniques like gene editing and the gene gun approach.

Genetically Engineered Trees in India:

  • The first experiment with genetically engineered trees used the rubber tree developed by the Rubber Research Institute in Kerala.
  • The GE rubber has a higher tolerance for environmental stress and is more drought resistant.
  • As a result, it will be simpler to establish rubber in unusual places with poor weather.
  • Strangely, the previous environment minister approved of the field trials for GE rubber trees (Mr. Jairam Ramesh).
  • According to the Ministry, genetically engineered trees pose less of a threat than food crops.
  • This notion is incorrect because rubber tree seeds are fed to cattle, which then make their way into the food chain through milk.
  • Kerala is another area where rubber plantations produce a large amount of rubber honey.


  • Genetically modified trees have the potential to minimise the consequences of climate change by absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • They can also be employed commercially to more effectively produce pulp or wood.


  • The long-term impacts of GM trees on ecosystems and the environment are not fully understood.
  • Concerns exist over the potential risks of cross-fertilization with wild or non-GM trees, which could have unfavourable effects.
  • According to detractors, Transgenic trees may increase the usage of toxic pesticides and herbicides and destroy biodiversity.
  • The government enforces strict requirements before GM crops can be licenced for commercial use, usually eliminating the research incentives for generating novel crops.

GM Crop Regulation in India:

  • The highest biotech regulating agency in India is the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).
  • The committee is established as a legislative body by the Environment Protection Act of 1986 of the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF).
  • Its previous name was the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee.
  • The GEAC oversees approving the commercial release of biotech crops as well as experimental and extensive open field studies, in accordance with the EPA's 1986 "Rules for Production, Use, Import, Export, and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells."
  • The Rules of 1989 also designate five qualified bodies—the Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBSC), Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation (RCGM), Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC), and District Level Committee (DLC)—to handle various aspects of the rules.

Governmental Programs:

  • The National Agricultural Innovation Programme (NAIP): advancing GM crop research and development. This initiative, which offers financing for agricultural research and development, including the production of GM crops, is sponsored by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
  • The National Food Security Mission (NFSM), run by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, aims to boost food grain production and productivity in India by conducting research on GM crops.
  • The Department of Biotechnology administers the Biotechnology Industry Partnership Program (BIPP), which provides funding for public-private collaborations in the disciplines of biotechnology and genetically modified crops.
  • The National Biotechnology Development Strategy (NBDS) is a long-term plan put in place by the Department of Biotechnology to promote biotechnology research and development in India.
  • Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana: This initiative, which is run by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, aims to promote the expansion of the agricultural sector and allied businesses.

Source: Down To Earth

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