Trees have been genetically engineered so they can be more easily broken down easier into paper and biofuel, with the use of fewer chemicals and less energy.

The team from the University of British Columbia said their GM trees will create fewer environmental pollutants and waste through modifying a polymer found in wood called lignin.

Lignin makes up a big part of the cell wall of most plants. However, it is a big hindrance when it comes to processing plants to make pulp, paper and biofuel.

Researcher Shawn Mansfield said: "One of the largest impediments for the pulp and paper industry as well as the emerging biofuel industry is a polymer found in wood known as lignin."

Published in the journal Science, the team has now managed to modify the lignin so it broke down easier, without altering the strength of the tree.

In the past researchers attempted to reduce lignin by supressing the trees genes, but this resulted in stunted growth and trees vulnerable to pests, pathogens and the elements.

Lignin's structure contains bonds that are difficult to degrade. The team genetically engineered bonds that are easier to break down and injected it into the lignin backbone. The researchers say this process can be used on other plants to create a new type of fuel that can replace petroleum.

"We're designing trees to be processed with less energy and fewer chemicals, and ultimately recovering more wood carbohydrate than is currently possible," Mansfield said.

"It is truly a unique achievement to design trees for deconstruction while maintaining their growth potential and strength.

"We're a petroleum reliant society. We rely on the same resource for everything from smartphones to gasoline. We need to diversify and take the pressure off of fossil fuels. Trees and plants have enormous potential to contribute carbon to our society."