Genetic Engineering in Forestry

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Local authority to control genetically engineered and invasive plants is under attack  MORE


Why We're Concerned

 

Genetically engineered trees are already in the field for research purposes. In the U.S. over 60% of the field testing of GE trees is occurring in the South, with South Carolina accounting for nearly 50% of all field releases. Scientists are focused on pine and poplar trees- trees that are fundamental to our native forest ecosystems. We have already seen dire impacts from GE farm crops, most of which are not native to U.S. ecosystems and do not interbreed with native plants. We face much more damaging impacts from forestry applications since these are focused on native tree species that will have direct impacts on the makeup of our forests.

 

GE trees will inevitably contaminate native forests by interbreeding with wild trees. This will lead to irreversible changes in fundamental ecosystem processes and will affect forestsí ability to support wildlife, provide clean air and water, and produce valuable forest products.

Gene drift in agriculture has occurred rapidly- A recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists concluded that seeds of traditional varieties of corn, soybeans, and canola are pervasively contaminated with low levels of DNA sequences derived from transgenic varieties. Transgenically derived DNA was detected in 50 percent of the corn, 50 percent of the soybean, and 83 percent of the canola varieties tested. These crops have been in production for less than a decade.

 

Contamination of forests will lead to losses is productivity.

GE in native tree species is focused on reducing the production of lignin (the material that makes timber strong and rigid). This makes GE trees easier to use for papermaking, but useless as sawtimber, which provides the most profitable market for landowners. Genetic contamination will make some forests less capable of producing marketable timber.

 

Contamination will hurt innocent landowners.

Corporations have successfully sued landowners for patent infringement when their land was contaminated by seed or pollen from GE crops by no fault of their own. Even though these landowners have faced contamination of their property and loss in productivity or markets, courts have ruled that the unintended presence of GE plants on their property was patent infringement and corporations have recovered large fines.

GE technology will increase both negative impacts associated with monoculture forestry and concentration of the forest products industry.

Genetic engineering is developing trees for cultivation in intensive plantation settings which require increased water and nutrient inputs and often rely on heavy chemical use. 

 

Corporations and scientists are engineering trees with little regard for the dramatic impacts that they will have on ecosystems, society, and private landowners. There has been an unscientific lack of rational debate about the fundamental questions involved in manipulating forests for the purpose of industrial production. 

There has been only negligible effort to even begin documenting the risks associated with this technology, and current regulations are grossly inadequate.

 

 RESOURCES

Patented Plants & Property Rights

What Every Landowner Should Know About Genetic Contamination & Legal Liability

 

Raising Risk : Field Testing of Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States

A Texas PIRG Report

 

Genetically Modified Trees- 

The ultimate threat to forests

A World Rainforest Movement Publication

 

 

Recent media coverage:

Down in the forest, something stirs

Wisconsin Public Radio     Requires RealPlayer

Carbon trading and GE trees rapped at UN conference

Trespass: Genetic Engineering as the Final Conquest

The impact of test-tube trees on the woods

Tweaking tree genes on horizon

More media...