Position Statements

Regulation of Genetically Modified Trees


The Society of American Foresters (SAF) supports and encourages research and scientific advancements in forest tree biotechnology and its use to improve forest productivity, wood quality, and forest health, including the use of appropriately regulated Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), specifically genetic engineering (GE). SAF believes that well-studied applications of appropriate biotechnology methods for forest tree improvement have the potential to enhance the quality, productivity, and value of plantation forests managed for wood, pulp, and bioenergy; protect tree species from serious insect and disease problems; and provide other social, economic, and environmental benefits (e.g., restoration). SAF also supports research on genetic engineering with appropriate management of produced genetic material. Further, SAF supports science-informed government regulatory oversight of biotechnology applications, including GE and newer genome editing (e.g., Crispr-Cas9) approaches, and encourages consideration of both the benefits and risks of forest biotechnology applications. SAF supports science-based GE regulation based on potential inherent threats of the novel organism, focused on the products’ safety and environmental impact. 

SAF urges government regulators to consider the cost of inaction on GE technology to society (restoration and preservation goals, economic impacts for companies and public-sector researchers). The US should diminish regulations that make field tests excessively costly, burdensome, or that limit duration of these tests. These sorts of excessive regulations impede the ability to complete economically and ecologically significant research and, thus, impede timely understanding or realization of the benefits or costs to society of this new technology. 

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