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Gene-modified eucalyptus ingests more CO2

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Eucalyptus trees genetically modified by a team of Taiwanese and U.S. biologists have proven capable of ingesting up to three times more carbon dioxide than normal strains, indicating a new path to reducing greenhouse gases and global warming, team members said yesterday.

Under the auspices of National Science Council, staff members at the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute (TFRI) under the cabinet-level Council of Agriculture and North Carolina State University in the United States carried out the gene modification project that not only creates eucalyptus with a higher than normal CO2 absorptive capacity, but also causes them to produce less lignin and more cellulose.

TFRI researcher Chen Zenn-zong explained that cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin in trees are all created from carbon elements. “However,only cellulose can be used in commercial processes of pulp manufacturing and bio-ethanol extraction, “ he added.

“The idea behind the whole project is to increase the value of genetically-modified eucalyptus to related industries, so we adjusted the ratio of cellulose and lignin, “ Chen said. “Meanwhile, we enhance the tree’s capacity in absorbing CO2 to reduce greenhouse gases, so that more trees planted for production, the more CO2 are consumed.”

With every eucalyptus carrying 18 percent less lignin and 4.5 percent more cellulose, Chen estimated that a pulp factory with an annual output of 1 million tons could generate extra revenues of NT$1. 2 billion (about US$36 million) every year.

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