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Scientists say sustainable forestry organizations should lift ban on biotech trees

Date: 26.8.2019 

Look at anything made from trees – a ream of paper, a cardboard box, lumber – and it's probably stamped with the logo of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or an equivalent organization.

Kredit: J. Zapell / Wikimedia Commons.These nonprofits certify that forests are managed sustainably, and one common requirement is no genetically modified (GM) trees. But that ban hinders research and should change, researchers say in today's issue of Science. The technology, they argue, has important potential to remedy many pressing problems facing forests. "Having this restriction doesn't make any sense," says Sofia Valenzuela, a biochemist at the University of Concepción in Chile.

Certification of forest sustainability began to take off in the 1990s. Environmental groups, concerned about tropical deforestation, wanted to encourage consumers to buy products from sustainably managed forests. FSC, headquartered in Bonn, Germany, bases its certifications on a range of social, environmental, and economic factors. Together, FSC and a similar effort, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), in Geneva, Switzerland, have certified about 440 million hectares around the world.

The organizations say that since their inception, they have banned GM trees as a precaution against uncertain environmental risks. Stefan Salvador, FSC’s director of policy operations, says the ban also reflects "fundamental skepticism" about the technology, including concerns that it will intensify production in tree plantations.

Scientists have long countered that hundreds of field trials and other research over the years since have proved the technology as safe as traditional breeding.





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