Scientists want to plant hundreds of GM trees for biofuel research despite fears that they could cause ‘widespread ecological damage’.
They believe the Government’s growing commitment to renewable energy sources may open the door again to controversial GM projects.
The researchers have requested permission to place genetically modified poplars on land owned by the Forestry Commission.
If approved, the application by scientists from the University of Southampton would be the first attempt to cultivate GM trees in the UK since 1999, when activists destroyed 115 in Berkshire.
But opposition to the planting of the trees is likely to be intense. Clare Oxborrow, of Friends of the Earth, said: ‘Our concerns with GM trees are even more serious than crops because trees are very long-lived.
‘They are inherently geared up for spreading seeds and pollen because of they way they reproduce. There’s a huge potential for cross-pollination. It could have a really negative impact and cause widespread ecological damage.’