Environmentalists are challenging the plans of a S.C.-based biotechnology firm to grow genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in the South, saying the fast-growing Australian species could spread uncontrollably.
ArborGen LLC won federal permits in May to plant 330 acres of a eucalyptus hybrid in South Carolina and six other states. The test sites include Marlboro County, S.C., about 75 miles southeast of Charlotte.
Genetic engineering speeds up the tedious cross-breeding that farmers have used for centuries to boost desirable traits in crops and livestock.
Summerville, S.C.-based ArborGen, a partnership of the International Paper, MeadWestvaco and Rubicon Limited paper and forest products companies, hopes its tinkering will produce a warm-weather tree that can tolerate cold but won’t reproduce.