October 1st, 2010
01:34 PM ET

Study: Genetically altered trees could help climate

Genetically altered trees could help reduce global warming, according to a study released Friday in the journal BioScience.

The study, led by a team from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, analyzed ways plants process carbon dioxide and convert it into forms of carbon.

The findings could one day lead to a forest of trees and other plants genetically engineered to pull in billions of tons of carbon from the air, counteracting the effects of global warming.

Scientists say the use of genetically engineered plants is just one of many initiatives that could help with carbon sequestration, the retrieval and longtime storage of carbon from the atmosphere.

Genetic alterations can improve the efficiency of plant processes, including increasing the carbon that vegetation naturally extracts from the air, according to the study's authors.

In addition, plants could be altered to absorb more sunlight, according to the study.

The research also offers innovative ideas for genetically engineered plants, such as creating better crop yields and vegetation that could withstand harsher growing conditions.

BioScience is published by the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

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Filed under: Earth • Environment
soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. Floria sigmundi

    Why is man messing with nature it's like salmon and corn pretty soon the real stuff will fade away

    Check out this video on YouTube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUJ4bL6O3uw&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    October 1, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • ...---...

      It's an interesting analogy...probably closer to the truth. There's a balance, I'm sure. Some is good, some is chemical warfare. I don't like gmo's in my food supply because my body has a tendency to reject foods that are known (now...took me years to figure out why I was getting sick) to be heavily genetically modified (corn most obvious). Having said that, we need real solutions to our energy consumption and alternative energy needs. As long as it doesn't take over the world and eat every other tree on the planet, or us...and it makes a nice clean energy alternative...I would listen to more about this.

      October 1, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Meh

    Even if they didn't become like one of the other great "invasive species" ideas- like love bugs or cain toads- Where would all the needed trees go? (Oh! Maybe we can use antartica for them when it's done melting.) Would we cut down existing forests for them? Bio-diversity much? Etc etc. Dumbest idea ever. Science- it's about could'a, not should'a.

    October 1, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      Not dumb. For a humanity not able to embrace the obvious solutions of population control (drop Earth's population to ~1 billion and it could be sweet for all) or efficiency improvements it may be the only option. Bio-engineering only does what nature does, but with man's interests a priority. Does it portend a future where most of nature is designed? Perhaps, but there will be no nature of any kind unless we do something.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • JP

      Eventually carbon locked up in the wood will need to be released.

      But typically trees are grown 20+ years between harvesting (depending on tree) and can see easily another 20-40 inside of a home or similar. That's 40-60 years of carbon storage. Not perfect but one would hope by then we have made additional progress to slow carbon emissions.

      Ironically it's not unusual for the Earth to go through warming and cooling trends. It's happened a lot before and this is by far not the last nor the worst. While I do not think humans are the cause of the warming, I agree we are definitely not helping things.

      October 3, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  3. Rick McDaniel

    The single most important way to impact preservation of the environment, is to reduce human populations. trouble is, no one is willing to do that. China has kept their "one child only" policy, but no one else in the world, is even doing that.

    If we don't reduce human populations, NOTHING else will matter, as it will be immediately negated with population growth.

    October 1, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • ...---...

      Women do just fine when they can control their own finances. Patriarchy was an issue that has real problems...for both men and women. Read Carol Gilligans books, In A Different Voice, The Birth of Pleasure, and The Deepening Darkness. There's a video called Learning to See in the Dark with Carol Gilligan on mitworld video. The old way of thinking about this is just wrong. It would be helpful to read about 40-50 books on post traumatic stress also. The people that tried to control our reproductive systems like that...were wrong.

      October 1, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • J. Klapper

      China's talking about getting rid of the one child policy

      October 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      Amen to population control, but the idea that all will correct itself if women are in charge is fantasy. As to patriarchy, repressive societies of all types must go. I don't know who finds submissive women interesting any way.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • ...---...

      Rigel54: You know that patriarchy doesn't just apply to women, right? Men are taught that they are over women and children, and even other men (if they are different than themselves), and that *good* men are soldiers...if we keep teaching that we are going to have wars with men trying to be *good* forever. Boys are taught not to cry...to dissociate...and later in life they are lonely because they have been taught to dissociate too much. It's wrong. Patriarchy isn't good for men or women.

      October 1, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ...---...

    Also note that killing the girl babies means something. Patriarchy has to go. It's just wrong. In order to kill girl babies...they would have to get women to go along with that...this all means something and it's not good. Seriously...read these books. It's a pivot point for a lot of people. The lecture can only tell you so much. As a woman that dealt with patriarchy my whole life, I have to tell you...it was all I could do to make myself want to be alive. I lived in a patriarchy that simply made me sick. But, you won't understand that and I know that. But, read the books. The world isn't flat...as it appears.

    October 1, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. leslie

    Well.... creepy as usual, just leave things alone. Fun to tinker, but stop it!! We never seem to learn.

    October 1, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      Learn what? The disasters thus far have been strictly natural (rabbits in Australia, etc.). Manipulation of biology has allowed us to feed this world and avoid Malthus' predictions so far. Most of our crops are the result of aggressive manipulation via cross-breeding,etc. These are only different from present efforts in that they introduce traits by selected breeding rather than directly.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. awesome

    What's wrong with man fixing the world around him? I like this idea and think they should start altering humans too, weed out all diseases n retardations from america.

    October 1, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      Well that's a ticklish business, given a bad name by the Nazis and such. Still, if we can selectively switch off and eradicate defects (spina bifida, Parkinson's, Alzheimers, cancer, etc.) without selecting socially influenced "positive" traits I can't see any objections.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • E. Elliott

      Amen, no more Chaney's or Bush's. A good start.

      October 2, 2010 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      E. Elliot: Yes, we all know that Obama and his ilk are doing a much better job of things – aren't they?

      October 3, 2010 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  7. ,Dick Long

    With evil, greedy hands and mind. we only bound to destroy everything

    October 1, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      Is we? Afraid I don't see it. Science has pretty consistently made our lives better. The exceptions all relate to the science of war. That pursues a separate course, though we seem to be calming that down as well. We're progressively stepping away from nuclear holocaust (OK< by making conventional weapons more accurate and deadly), but still, better.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. blue

    Human effects or not, the Earth is warming up from the last ice age anyway. At this point, curbing emissions, even if we stopped it all overnight and kept it that way for 100 years, is going to do very little. Rather, we should learn how to adapt to the inevitably changing climate. Our ancestors did it just fine, except there weren't 7 billion people at the time.

    October 1, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mobius007

      You're right – it's likely already too late to reverse global warming. Google the phrase "Global Climate change irreversible" for more info.

      Feel fortunate that you were born in the 20th (or early 21st for you kiddies) century...

      October 1, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      Nonsense. The effects of human induced global warming will be reduced proportionally to our efforts. Can we avoid any impact? Of course not, we've already had some. Is it better to be shot in the foot than in the head? Absolutely! Should we try to adapt to whatever change we can't avoid? Of course. Climate scientists overwhelmingly agree we must act in both categories. Population control is imperative as well. Only self-absorbed mentally lazy people who had rather sell their children's futures than give up their SUVs can think otherwise.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mobius007

      Rigel – Unfortunately, every country is "self absorbed" with its own economy, just as every individual is self-absorbed with their own survival. Having said that, we need to recognize that there is no real will amongst the world’s people or governments to address global warming (or population control). Emissions continue to increase dramatically, year over year. Nothing (significant) will be done by the world’s governments until sea-level rise occurs in the coming decades. Roughly 60% of the world's population lives at less than 300 feet above sea level...

      October 1, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tinsoldier

    So how much do they want to spend to re invent the wheel?

    October 1, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jay the Athiest

    I can hear Alex Jones already...which means next week Glen Beck will be talking about it

    October 1, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. FRANK NATURE

    HOW ABOUT A TREE THAT A KILLS ALL THE BUG???????

    October 1, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Al Gore

    Global warming? It's still just a theory you flocking idiots. Need a few million years more data.
    nobel peace prize my ass.

    October 1, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • All Angles of the Pyramid

      I agree completely. There has also been climatologists that have said global warming isn't fully true. Then there is the argument that global warming is just a scare tactic to get us to pay a tax on the about of carbon dioxide we put in the air.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      Do some research. And while you're at it get a dictionary and look up the word "theory". I'll not call you an idiot, but you clearly don't know what you're talking about.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mobius007

      I guess this whole global warming discussion is just a Democratic conspiracy, eh? That's equivalent to saying that Republicans are fiscally conservative.

      ""http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_debt_by_U.S._presidential_terms""

      October 1, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      Oh, is there done been sientists that done said that? Not many! Gravity is a theory. Please jump off of a cliff and test it out, don't make the rest of the world do it. The low intellectual content of some comments makes me worry about the validity of democracy in the modern world. I guess, as Mark Twain said, "Democracy is the worst form of government in the entire world, except for every other form of government in the entire world."

      October 1, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • All Angles of the Pyramid

      Well I would say there is no difference in political parties in this state. There is the belief that this state is democratic but in reality it is a single governing force. Politicians paid off here to meet the needs of companies world wide. Why is it that most companies created in the U.S. outsource their companies to third world countries. It isn't because we are helping these poor countries develop that's for sure. Yet many of us complain about the lack of jobs there are. Hmm... as for global warming, its been happening for hundreds of years if not since the beginning. It has also been stated that we've been moving closer and closer to the sun which as we all know means: the closer you are to the sun the hotter.

      October 1, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mobius007

      Angels – before you enter into a debate, you should familiarize yourself with the subject. This site offers a good primer.

      ""http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/kids/history.html""

      October 1, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • E. Elliott

      A long time friend, to be treading water.

      October 2, 2010 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
  13. renfield

    Great! Then all we'll face is the unintended side effects of covering the earth with Frankentrees. Will they be less, or more than the side effects of burning fossil fuels?

    October 1, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lisa Baby

    First off let me thank those who stuck to the topic at hand how many years is this going to have to grow to be of any help whatsoever. i go with the theory that if God made it its good once man tampers with that plan expect it not to turn out entirely right ya know God made weed man made alcohol whoo do you trust

    October 1, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mobius007

      In God We Trust. 😉 Keep your hands off my "green", and we'll get along well.

      We should all be wary of genetic modification. Genes migrate across similar species with unforeseen consequences.

      October 1, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. donna

    Hurry up and plant they tree!

    October 1, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
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