Scientists from Washington State University are genetically modifying poplars to see if they can produce commercial quantities of the compound that gives roses their aroma.
The compound is worth $30 an ounce, and the project could lead to turning trees into factories for flavorings or medicines. It also could make the fast-going poplar a viable biofuel.
The Seattle Times reports the WSU project grows about 12,000 trees on 11 acres in Western Washington. WSU and the University of Washington are sharing an $80 million Agriculture Department grant to find ways to convert trees and wood waste to jet fuel.
The genetic engineering faces layers of regulation and opposition from environmental groups who fear they will contaminate native forests. The genetically engineered poplars are cut down before they product pollen.