FuturaGene Ltd. U.K., held by Suzano Papel e Celulose SA, said it won approval from Brazil for the world’s most advanced trial of a genetically modified forest as it seeks to boost yields of trees used in biomass power plants.
The company will plant modified eucalyptus trees in coming weeks in a fourth trial to test the safety and effectiveness of the technology, Chief Executive Officer Stanley Hirsch said in an interview. Inserting genes into trees allows increased yields for electricity generation or manufacturing of pulp and paper.
Biomass may make up about 21 percent of the world’s energy supply by 2050, curbing fossil fuel emissions, the International Energy Agency says. FuturaGene is seeking to use its technology commercially in late 2015 to early 2016 when trials are finished and yield-enhanced eucalyptus approved, Hirsch said in London.
“This pioneering fourth trial is a key step toward the commercial deployment of our first plantation product,” he said. The test of the technology is the world’s most advanced for an enhanced-yield plantation forest, according to Hirsch.
The trees may produce about 1 million tons of wood pellets from about 38,000 hectares (93,900 acres) of plantation land or enough to power a 200-megawatt power station, he said. Biomass such as wood and farm waste has the highest potential for growth of any renewable power source, according to the Paris-based IEA.
Greenpeace are among those opposed to genetic engineering for food or non-food crops because of possible risks to the environment. While WWF International has sought a moratorium on use of genetic modification until the technology is fully researched and safeguards are in place, the environmental organization is now revising its position, it said by phone.
“Genetic-modified technology, if you look at it scientifically, is a vital sustainability tool that allows you to do more with less resource,” Hirsch said. “The misperception is really damaging the ability to actually push these products into the market,” he said.
FuturaGene, bought by Suzano Papel e Celulose in July 2010, also plans to improve yields of poplar trees and has facilities in Brazil, China and Israel, according to the company.