Genetically Engineered Trees


Since 1999 GENET collects and distributes information on various topics in the field of genetic engineering in agriculture, food production and health. With this "Special Topic: GE Trees" GENET aims at providing an overview about the worldwide debate on genetically engineered trees, based on our archives.


Databank Query 1: "trees" as key word in the GENET-news text


You will find a selection of publications in the section "Research & Reports". To get more information about the different stakeholders in the debate, please follow the internet links to selected actors in the civil society and industry sectors. Finally, the page "GE Trees and the CBD" introduces you into the international debate about a moratorium on GE trees that is ongoing at the Convention for Biological Biodiversity.

GENET-news articles

2008-05-05 |

GM pines cleared of risk to the environment in New Zealand

A trial cultivation of genetically modified pine trees in the open has shown no demonstrable risk to the environment, says research agency Scion. The Crown Research Institute says its field trial in Rotorua had not led to any modified gene transfer to other organisms or any discernible impacts on insects which live or feed on the trees, or bug life in the soil. Dr Tom Richardson, Scion chief executive, told the Herald yesterday these were the key areas under investigation and the result was that there were no detrimental effects from exposure to the genetically modified pines.

2008-03-24 |

The threat of GM trees

While genetically manipulated crops carry on being the subject of vigorous polemics and resistance around the world as more and more data is gathered on contamination, yield failures, increased use of agro-poisons and impacts on health and the environment, new threats are looming with growing pressure from companies to introduce GM trees. The principal motive of the industries concerned is to produce raw material more cheaply for paper and celluose for ethanol at the cost of increasing the harsh effects of forestry monoculture on the environment, on forests, on indigenous and afro-descendant communities and on rural families.

2008-02-26 |

International protest demanding a ban on GM trees

On 19 February 2008, a large number of civil society organizations sent an open letter to the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, currently meeting in Rome, expressing their ”deep concern” about genetic engineering of trees. In only one week, the letter was signed by 138 organizations in countries where research on the genetic engineering of trees is being carried out, (or has in recent years).

2008-01-21 |

Phytoremediation of volatile pollutants through genetic engineering

A direct method for enhancing the effectiveness of phytoremediation is to overexpress in transgenic plants the genes involved in metabolism, uptake, or transport of specific pollutants. This can be readily achieved for many plant species by using Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated plant transformation. Since phytoremediation is generally more effective when using large, fast-growing plants, the focus has been on poplar trees. Depending on the hybrid and particular clone, reasonable transformation frequencies can be achieved in poplar.

2007-12-28 |

What happens when genetic engineering comes to the forest?

Some proponents hope that the chestnut will be the first transgenic forest tree to confront federal regulators. (Forest trees, unlike the bioengineered plum and papaya, pose special issues because they have relatives in the wild.) They see it as a good test case because the chestnut is a tree that the public genuinely desires, and the environmental risks are lower since few chestnuts still exist in the forests. As Robert Kellison, former head of the Institute of Forest Biotechnology, put it in a 2006 interview: ”We need to get something through the system so we can set an example.” That’s exactly what many experts and environmental activists worry about.

2007-12-19 |

Oregon State University (USA) starts non-GE tree breeding programme

A new move toward ”marker based breeding” with economically important forest tree species is expected to improve and speed up the identification of trees with desirable traits – to achieve faster growth, drought resistance, wood quality or other useful characteristics. [...] These programs, researchers say, do not involve genetic engineering, which is the intentional change of genetic structure or introduction of novel genes into plants, and an approach that has also met significant public resistance and regulatory hurdles.

2007-12-11 |

Argentina’s forest law creates export tax on GE soy to fight deforestation

The forests of Argentina are being cleared at a rate of 40 football fields every hour. To stop the destruction we took to the trees - and to the streets. While our activists protested in the forest, we joined forces with other environmental groups, got 1.5 million signatures of support and pushed through Argentina’s first federal forest protection law. [...] To pay for implementation, the law allocates funds from the national budget, plus income from a new export tax on genetically engineered soy. Forest clearing to plant genetically engineered soy beans destroys 300,000 hectares of native forest per year.

2007-11-26 |

Through genetics, tapping a tree’s potential as a source of energy

Aiming to turn trees into new energy sources, scientists are using a controversial genetic engineering process to change the composition of the wood. A major goal is to reduce the amount of lignin, a chemical compound that interferes with efforts to turn the tree’s cellulose into biofuels like ethanol. [...] ”Nature would have selected for lower-lignin trees if they could survive,” said Shawn Mansfield, associate professor of wood science at the University of British Columbia. People working in the field also acknowledge that they will face resistance from others who see trees as majestic symbols of pristine nature that should not be genetically altered like corn and soybeans.

2007-11-20 |

Modified forests could severely impact natural land

When the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative at Oregon State University was still known as The Tree Genetic Engineering Research Cooperative, they publicized their work with ”Roundup® resistant” trees. [...] The old TGERC Web site still has information posted about their hundreds of lines of transgenic trees that ”have demonstrated high levels of tolerance and no detectable growth loss after multiple Roundup® applications…[and others]…that contain a synthetic gene from the cry3a strain of Bacillus thuringiensis…showed strong resistance to the cottonwood leaf beetle…and enhanced growth rate.”

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GE Trees: NGOs and Social Movements

 people's Forest Forum

The Global Ban on GM Trees Campaign was released by three Finnish non-governemental organisations in January 2004. The open petition protested decicion made in UN Climate change meeting in Milano to include transgenic trees in their climate toolbox. This desicion violated the biodiversity and biosafety agreements and prozesses.

 Stop GE Trees Campaign

The Stop GE Trees Campaign is a national and international alliance of organizations that have united toward the goal of prohibiting the ecologically and socially devastating release of genetically engineered trees into the environment. Global Justice Ecology Project coordinates, administrates and fundraises for the campaign. World Rainforest Movement, based in Uruguay, is the Southern Hub for the Campaign and has materials in Spanish and Portuguese.

 Genetically Modified Trees

Information by the World Rainforest Movement

  • WRM publications on GM Trees
  • Articles published in WRM bulletin
  • WRM special bulletin on GM Trees
  • Video "The Silent Forest"
  • Other relevant information
  • Links

GE Trees: Biotechnology Industry and Science

 Institute for Forest Biotechnology

The Institute promotes the responsible use of biotechnology in forest trees.  We advance the societal, environmental, and economic benefits biotechnology can bring to forests around the world.  The Institute of Forest Biotechnology (IFB) is the only non-profit organization to address the sustainability of forest biotechnology on a global scale.


Trees are the world’s most plentiful and versatile source of renewable materials and an important resource for bioenergy. ArborGen is dedicated to improving the sustainability and productivity of purpose grown working forests, providing more wood on less land while preserving native habitats in all their diversity and complexity for future generations.

 Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative

The goal of the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative (TBGRC) is to conduct research, technology transfer, and education to facilitate beneficial uses of genetically engineered trees in plantations. The TBGRC seeks to test and develop select innovations, based on progress in molecular biology and agricultural biotechnology, that will ultimately have commercial value to wood-growing and horticultural industries. Research is presently focused on poplars as scientific models for genetic engineering and functional genomic studies.