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. patricia

    I don't think we should be messing around with what we have been given!

    October 1, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Shaun

    So... What happens in 10,000 years when we have much more oxygen in the atmosphere? Giant incects, And get way too much O2 and you get a pretty cool firestorm

    October 1, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mikef

    interesting if god made it then man shouldnt tamper with it then why believe in a man made religion?

    October 1, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mobius007

      Exactly. Global warming, sea level rise, desert expansion, deforestation, overpopulation, famine growth and food shortages – it's all just part of God's great "future for humanity" plan. Enjoy the ride.

      October 1, 2010 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jake

    these trees can be great but they must be controlled how about we stop cutting down the rainforest instead. and as for population control tell the africans indians and ppl of south america to stop having 10 kids when they can only feed1 and maybe the world would be a better place

    October 1, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Steve White

    Watch out ...The enviro-nuts will be coming out of the WOOD WORK.....ON THIS ONE

    October 1, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • E. Elliott

      Like Foghorn Leghorn says, I keep throwing em and you keep missing em.

      October 2, 2010 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. Michael R

    Global warming needs to be stopped by allowing natural processes to do their job with out the stress of thousands of tons of extra CO2 inthe air. To try and throw another variable in the loop could doom our planet. If there's anything we've learned by global warming it's "don't mess with it."

    October 1, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Howie

    "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."

    ....and converts it into forms of carbon. No one has pointed out trees convert it to oxygen....yep reinventing the wheel

    October 2, 2010 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Mrdrfrank

      Oxygen doesn't come from CO2, it comes from splitting of water by photosystemII to provide electrons for the electron transport chain of the light-dependent reactions of photosynthesis. Electrons energized by captured light are taken up by NADPH, and also drive the production of ATP. These feed into the light- independent reactions which use that energy to rearrange the covalent bonds of the CO2 to produce sugars. Plant cells then may use those sugars as short term energy storage or build the sugars into complex polysaccharides like cellulose, the main structural molecule of plants and the most abundant organic molecule on earth, keeping the carbon sequestered and out of the atmosphere until the plant rots or is burned.

      Don't CNN readers take high school biology?

      October 2, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tomcat

    what about glofish and other genetically modified animals? how are they a benifet to man kind? it is all a start to the super human. didnt we see this already with hitler?

    October 2, 2010 at 2:20 am | Report abuse |
  9. korwyn

    God put CO2 in the ground to balance nature and its greedy ignorant humans that dig it up and release it into nature. When did humanity become so stupid. Idea of "civilization" is wrong. Native americans had it right before "civilization" came and screwed it up.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:40 am | Report abuse |
  10. korwyn

    Trees take in CO2 and release O2 in to the air and store the carbon into themselves

    October 2, 2010 at 4:44 am | Report abuse |
  11. diane

    Why don't these brilliant people do something about the existing forests? Instead of trying to change nature we should be protecting it. Stopping logging of old growth and teaching people to use the rainforests as a way to earn money would be much more beneficial. Nature has taken care of this planet for millinia, it is time for us to let it do it's job.

    October 2, 2010 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  12. Mobius007

    I came across this paper about 6 months ago, which captures an interesting perspective on the subject of life on earth, Man's role as the caretaker of the planet, and our place in the universe as the only know life-sustaining planet. If you found this CNN story interesting, you may also find this philosophical discussion interesting. FYI – there is no religious content.


    October 2, 2010 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  13. phil

    Those of you who believe the bible know that God's purpose for the earth is for it to be a paradise. 80% of US claim to be Christians and know that "The meek shall inherit the earth". So nothing can stop the earth from becoming more tropical. Not even gene-trees.

    October 2, 2010 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Mobius007

      Phil, how can you be so sure that it's God's plan to warm the planet into a "paradise"? I seem to remember another character from Sunday school, someone who likes the temperature to be hot-n-toasty in his subterranean "paradise". Don't you think it's more likely that Beelzebub is to blame for global warming? 😉

      I mean, it couldn't be us people who are actually to blame...

      October 2, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mrdrfrank

    We have been "genetically modifying" plants for thousands of years by the brute-force method of artificial selection. Modern molecular biological techniques give us the ability to make changes in a much more specific and targeted way, with less chance for problematic changes. Do we need to be careful? Of course, but the possible benefits are huge.

    Want to eat a "no-GMO" diet? Then you have to eat only teocinte and not corn or rice... Good luck!

    October 2, 2010 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  15. La Piovra

    When I was watching the Miami area being despoiled, I had pipe dreams about a march of tropical Ents: coconut palms besieging the places of power with cannonades of coconuts; strangler figs tearing the strongholds apart with their aerial roots; bougainvilleas subjecting the lesser offenders to a hundred lashes each, and the great offenders locked in the deadly embrace of manchineel trees. Well, glory, halleluiah, now we can make it all come true! Only I'm not sure these Ents would stop there. What would these Ents think of us killing trees for toilet paper, for instance? Be afraid, be very afraid...

    October 2, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
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