Environmentalists worry that a new genetically-engineered tree could be bad for Georgia’s forests.
South Carolina based ArborGen uses genetic engineering to grow more trees. They received USDA approval to plant 28 plots of their hybrid eucalyptus in a handful of southern states including Georgia. The tree will be planted in Evans County near Augusta. The trees are grown from tissue samples and are supposed to be sterile, but there are no guarantees.
David Moorehead with UGA’s Center for Invasive Species says the eucalyptus requires lots of water and there are other concerns.
“Fire issues are also something that these species with oil contents, things like that in the bark and the leaves, the wood, those can be some issues as well sometimes.”
The fast growing tree makes a good pulpwood or as a feedstock for biofuels. However, Moorehead says the eucalyptus will be expensive to grow and that pine is still more suited for Georgia.