Through Genetics, Tapping a Tree’s Source of Energy

It might be true that “only God can make a tree,” as the poet Joyce Kilmer wrote. But genetic engineers can fundamentally redesign them.

Aiming to turn trees into new energy sources, scientists are using a controversial genetic engineering process to change the composition of the wood. A major goal is to reduce the amount of lignin, a chemical compound that interferes with efforts to turn the tree’s cellulose into biofuels like ethanol.

Vincent L. Chiang, co-director of the forest biotechnology group at North Carolina State University, has developed transgenic trees with as little as half the lignin of their natural counterparts. “I think the transgenic tree with low lignin will contribute significantly to energy needs,” he said.

Source:  New York Times

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