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TITLE:  Genetically modified eucalyptus grows in acidic soil
SOURCE: The Asahi Shimbun, Japan
        http://www.asahi.com/english/business/K2003071600271.html
DATE:   Jul 16, 2003

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Genetically modified eucalyptus grows in acidic soil

Major domestic paper manufacturer Oji Paper Co. has developed genetically
modified eucalyptus that can grow in acidic soil, company officials said.

Eucalyptus has a hard time surviving in acidic soil because the plant is
unable to absorb enough nutrition.

Oji Paper says it will produce the genetically modified eucalyptus
commercially if it is determined the plant poses no harm to the
environment. Because eucalyptus, which grows fast and is rich in
cellulose, is a good substitute for regular wood in paper production, it
is hoped that the development of tougher kinds of eucalyptus will prevent
a shortage of trees for paper production, company officials said.

There is growing concern that forestry resources in Asia will be
exhausted by an expected sharp increase in demand for paper in China and
other regional markets.

Oji Paper's Forestry Research Institute in Kameyama, Mie Prefecture,
developed the genetically modified eucalyptus in cooperation with Gifu
University.

Researchers will report their achievements to a meeting of academics in
Hawaii on July 25.

Experiments for practical use of the plant will begin in the United
States within the year.

The company aims to develop eucalyptus that can grow in arid regions and
on salty soil as well as on acidic soil within 10 years and start
afforestation projects in Australia and other countries.

Aluminum and other metals in acidic soil bind with phosphoric acid to
block the eucalyptus from absorbing enough nutrition, in this case the
phosphoric acid, through its roots.

To correct this, researchers implanted carrot genes into the eucalyptus
so it secretes citric acid from its roots. Citric acid, which is more
reactive than phosphoric acid, binds with the metals in the soil,
enabling the eucalyptus to absorb the phosphoric acid.

Since it is feared that pollen released from genetically modified plants
will destroy the surrounding ecology, the researchers are required to
prove that the plant will have no impact on the environment before the
genetically altered eucalyptus can be used on a commercial basis.

Researchers have successfully grown seedlings but they must verify their
safety by raising the young plants into trees that can grow more than 10
meters tall.

To conduct such a demonstration, the researchers need a large-scale
experimental facility bigger than any currently available in Japan. As a
result, they will conduct the test in a massive domed facility in the
United States.

Leading paper manufacturers, including Oji Paper, have been planting
trees in Australia, Chile and other countries for eventual use in paper
production.

Afforestation efforts in more sterile regions, however, will be necessary
if the manufacturers hope to meet growing future demand for paper




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