Researchers urge rethink on GM trees to beat global challenges

Writing in the journal Science, three North American researchers have called for a rethink of tough international restrictions of genetically modified (GM) trees, saying they the technology can address problems faced by tree populations worldwide.

Image: Linda Lane
Image: Linda Lane

The three claim that both GM regulations and forest certification schemes "are at odds with the need for rapid and innovative biotechnologies to help forests cope with growing pest epidemics and mounting abiotic stresses as a result of global travel and climate change".

Lead author Dr Steven Strauss of the University of Oregon told BBC News: "It's rather urgent we have all the tools we can bring to bear - it's just a pity that this tool is off the table and is locked in some vault. People have stopped doing research because the signals from the marketplace and regulators are so extraordinarily hostile."

But Anne Petermann, executive director of the Global Justice Ecology Project and coordinator of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees, said: ""In the case of genetically modified trees with native wild relatives, the threat of irreversible genetic contamination into native forests is impossible to control."

The paper is published in the latest edition of the journal Science

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