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

2013-05-14 |

Into the wildwood - GM chestnut may soon be liberated deliberately in the USA

The chestnut population of North America was reckoned then to have been about 4 billion trees. No longer. Axes and chainsaws must take a share of the blame. But the principal culprit is Cryphonectria parasitica, the fungus that causes chestnut blight. In the late 19th century, some infected saplings from Asia brought C. parasitica to North America. By 1950 the chestnut was little more than a memory in most parts of the continent. [...] Until now, the genetic modification of trees has had strictly commercial aims: speeding up the growth and extending the environmental tolerance of species intended for plantations. [...] The Forest Health Initiative’s goal, though, is to heal wild forests, not hurt them. If its experiments do produce a strain of chestnut that could do the job, it will be interesting to see how enthusiastically greens embrace it.

2013-05-14 |

U.S. biohackers are kickstarting some unregulated experiments with GE trees

You may have heard of Kickstarter -- the darling crowdfunding site where artists, designers, moviemakers, and others pitch pet projects to an online funder audience. [...] Generally Kickstarter projects promote such innocuous products as comic books, and sensibly, Kickstarter even has its own ethical limits on what it will host: Guns, drugs, and porn are forbidden for obvious reasons. [...] But as reported this week three biohackers from California have hijacked the Kickstarter machinery [and] made Kickstarter the conduit for a nationwide release of untested, unregulated and unmonitored bioengineered organisms by mounting a Kickstarter funding project to use Synthetic Biology to engineer glow-in-the-dark plants.

2013-05-02 |

US public overwhelmingly rejects genetically engineered trees

By a majority of almost 99.99% to .01%, the US public overwhelming rejected steps toward the legalization of genetically engineered trees during the USDA APHIS public comment period that ended yesterday. The comments were in response to a petition by genetically engineered tree company ArborGen requesting permission to commercially sell their GE freeze tolerant eucalyptus trees. Calls for a ban on the technology flooded the APHIS office, through individual online comments, petitions and online virtual meetings.

2012-11-16 |

The GM tree plantations bred to satisfy the world’s energy needs

GM eucalyptus trees at five-and-a-half years old, grown in a field trial. FutureGene claims GM species grow thicker and faster than the natural plant, making it possible to be grown for energy generation. It's a timber company's dream but a horrific industrial vision for others: massive plantations of densely planted GM eucalyptus trees stretching across Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and China, engineered to grow 40% faster for use as paper, as pellets for power stations and as fuel for cars. [...] ”FSC is at the moment is a market barrier. It's very sensitive. There is a growing understanding in the forestry industry that technology is a vital part of plantation forestry sustainability. But we are seeing a change in the certification bodies. FSC now allows forestry companies to look at research into GM trees. We are encouraging dialogue with FSC,” [Stanley Hirsch, chief executive of the Israeli biotech company FuturaGene] said.

2012-10-31 |

Italian GM trees go up in smoke after trial approval ran out 4 years ago

The final act of the controversy triggered last June 1st, 2012, when an anti-GMO organisation wrote a letter of protest to both the Italian departments of agriculture and environment was burned last Monday, October 29th, at the experimental field by the University of Tuscia (Viterbo - Italy). [...] the research project conducted by the Italian University of Tuscia was authorized in 1998 and it had no risks for humans and for the environment, as testified by many inspections in the experimental site, as well as by leading experts of Italian scientific institutions. Researchers had already asked for an extension of the authorisation some years ago, but nobody answered.

2012-10-09 |

”Semi-dwarf” GE trees may enable a green revolution for some forest crops

The same ”green revolution” concepts that have revolutionized crop agriculture and helped to feed billions of people around the world may now offer similar potential in forestry, scientists say, with benefits for wood, biomass production, drought stress and even greenhouse gas mitigation. Researchers at Oregon State University recently outlined the latest findings on reduced height growth in trees through genetic modification, and concluded that several advantageous growth traits could be achieved for short-rotation forestry, bioenergy, or more efficient water use in a drier, future climate. [...] For example, for ornamental purposes it would be possible to grow a miniature poplar, or even a Douglas-fir, as a potted plant.

2012-09-17 |

Research into genetic modification of trees may enable more deforestation

Scientists are studying how to genetically modify desirable trees in order to make them more commercially beneficial. They say it will allow us to grow more productive trees on less land, protecting natural forests -- but environmentalists say it will just increase deforestation by giving businesses something better to do with the land. [...] Scientists are now experimenting with plantations, manipulating and modifying the genes of saplings that grow in these monoculture forests — and that’s a problem, says Ann Peterman, executive director of the Global Justice Ecology Project. Scientists are focused on eucalyptus, poplars and pines, in an effort to enhance their natural traits to make them better as lumber, in the case of pine, or more suited to making paper or even biofuel.

2012-07-26 |

Genetically-modified apples spur debate in the USA

David Bedford, a scientist with the University of Minnesota's apple breeding program, said he thinks it will take modifying a trait more important than browning to change the views of the apple industry and the American public, which currently do not favor genetically modifying apples. The U.S. Apple Association said in a statement they do not want the USDA to allow Okanagan to plant their apples in the United States. ”Ultimately, the future of [genetically modified] apples in the United States will be determined by USDA's decision on the two petitions and by the marketplace” the association said in the statement. ”The market will have time to decide, since new apple trees take years to come into production.”

2012-06-26 |

GMO trees and the Green Economy: Green deserts for all?

While the highly controversial ”Sustainable Energy for All” initiative is underway today at Energy Day at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, the international STOP GE Trees Campaign is demanding a global ban on the release of destructive and dangerous genetically engineered trees into the environment. [...] ”Much of the research on GE trees in Brazil is focused on eucalyptus trees, which are being engineered for faster growth, and for modified wood qualities–such as increased cellulose and decreased lignin content. These engineered traits will facilitate the production of wood-based bioenergy”, stated Isis Alvarez of Global Forest Coalition.

2012-05-24 |

Richmond (Canada) takes bold and progressive stand on frankenfoods

City council endorsed a resolution Tuesday opposing the cultivation of genetically engineered plants and trees in Richmond. Richmond council took a progressive leap Tuesday, thumbing its nose at naysayers and even public health officials, by taking a stand on frankenfoods. [...] Sure there’s no firm evidence suggesting genetically altered food is good or bad for human health. [...] But in the absence of such categorical evidence, calling for a ban on such crops was the right move.

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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.