Position Statements

Regulation of Genetically Modified Trees

The Society of American Foresters (SAF) supports and encourages 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). 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.

SAF supports science-informed government regulatory oversight of biotechnology applications, including genetic engineering (GE, also called genetic modification), and encourages consideration of both the benefits and risks of forest biotechnology applications. SAF supports GMO regulation that is focused on the products’ safety and environmental impact. While GE potentially allows for greater novelty than traditional breeding techniques (e.g. production of novel phytochemicals), we believe that the degree of novelty of the GMO, and the potential threats that novelty creates, should drive regulation rather than simply the type of biotechnology used to achieve the modification.

SAF recognizes that discovery, development and understanding the impacts of appropriate GE technologies can be accomplished only through both laboratory and field testing. Given the rapidly growing costs and risks of regulatory compliance for GE field studies and proposed trade/marketplace barriers for many GMO products, SAF urges government regulators to consider and balance the cumulative opportunity cost to society of compliance with GE regulations for companies and public-sector researchers. Regulations that make field tests excessively costly, onerous, or limited in duration may impede the conduct of economically and ecologically significant research and, thus, the timely understanding or realization of the benefits or costs to society.

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