All posts by IFB

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North Carolina Agriculture and Forestry Adaptation Summit – August 11


Given the tremendous economic contributions that the agriculture and forestry industries provide to the state’s economy and the threats that changing climatic conditions pose, the members of NC ADAPT believe that preparedness planning is needed, and that the state as a whole would benefit from the development of a comprehensive adaptive management strategy.

The NC ADAPT Planning Team invites you to the North Carolina Agriculture and Forestry Adaptation Summit. This event will take place on August 11, 2015, at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh, NC. Registration starts at 8:30 am and the program will conclude by 4:30 pm.

The purpose of the Adaptation Summit is to bring together a diverse set of stakeholders to identify and forge consensus on the unique adaptation challenges that North Carolina’s agriculture and forestry sectors will face going forward. Summit attendees will also establish a pathway for constructing an adaptive management plan to improve agriculture and forestry resiliency and further enhance the economic viability of these sectors for decades to come. 

The Adaptation Summit is a recommendation of the recently released report Keeping North Carolina’s Farms and Forests Vibrant and Resilient: An Adaptive Management Planning Strategy. The Adaptation Summit consists of a full-day session with keynote and technical speakers, stakeholder panels and stakeholder breakout sessions. A draft of the Adaptation Summit agenda can be found here. Please go to to register for the Adaptation Summit. There is no fee to attend and lunch and refreshments are provided.

Space is limited so please register by August 5, 2015. Send any questions to or call 410-252-7079.  

Please join us and take an active role in improving the resilience of North Carolina’s two most defining and important industries – agriculture and forestry.

RC Hunt and Chip Miller
North Carolina Agriculture and Forestry Adaptation Work Group

US Biotechnology Coordinated Framework Gets a Reboot

Reworking the 1986 U.S. Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology

The White House issued a memorandum on July 2, 2015 directing the three Federal agencies that have oversight responsibilities for these products the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update the Coordinated Framework, develop a long-term strategy to ensure that the system is prepared for the future products of biotechnology, and commission an expert analysis of the future landscape of biotechnology products to support this effort.

Increasing transparency & predictability in biotechnology regulation

The goal of the effort is to ensure public confidence in the regulatory system and improve the transparency, predictability, coordination, and, ultimately, efficiency of the biotechnology regulatory system.  Here is a bit more detail about the efforts three components:

  • First, the Administration will update the Coordinated Framework, after public input, by clarifying the current roles and responsibilities of the EPA, USDA, and FDA in the regulatory process. This update will help clarify which biotechnology product areas are within the authority and responsibility of each agency and outline how the agencies work together to regulate products that may fall under the authorities of multiple agencies.
  • Second, the Administration will develop a long-term strategy, after public input, to ensure that the Federal regulatory system is well-equipped to assess efficiently any risks associated with the future products of biotechnology. This will include performing periodic horizon-scanning of new biotech products, coordinating support for the science that informs regulatory activities, developing tools to assist small businesses as they navigate the regulatory system, and creating user-friendly digital tools for presenting the agencies authorities, practices, and basis for decision-making.
  • Third, the Administration will commission an outside, independent analysis of the future landscape of the products of biotechnology. The Administration has already asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to conduct such an analysis.

More details on the elements of each of these components can be found in the memo to agencies that was issued today.

TACF Annual Meeting 2015 with Schatz Tree Genetics Colloquium

The American Chestnut Foundation and Schatz Tree Genetics Colloquium present Integrating Genomics Tools in American Chestnut Restoration

Asheville, NC The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) in collaboration with the Schatz Tree Genetics Colloquium presents Integrating Genomics Tools in American Chestnut Restoration on October 23-24, 2015 at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, PA. The event coincides with TACFs 2015 Annual Fall Meeting.

This unique 2-day workshop will feature scientists from around the world presenting research related to elements of chestnut genomics. Topics include genome sequencing, genetic mapping, marker-assisted selection techniques, and more.

Many hands-on learning opportunities are included such as DNA extraction in the lab and a chestnut genome sequencing workshop with the scientists who actually did the sequencing. There will also be a field trip to the Penn State Arboretums BC3F2 seed orchard to observe variation in form and resistance within the advanced chestnut generation families.

During a Q&A forum, workshop participants are encouraged to ask genetics-based questions of leading experts to learn more about American chestnut research in the fields of genomics and molecular genetics.

Dinner banquets and keynote addresses are scheduled for Friday and Saturday evenings. Speakers include Dr. Angus Dawe of New Mexico State University, Dr. Ron Sederoff of NC State University and Dr. Antoine Kremer of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA). Please refer to the attachment to read the complete list of event speakers and presentation topics.

Registration fees for this event are minimal:  2-Day Student Pass = $35.00; 2-Day Adult Pass = $99.00; Daily passes also available.  Click here for event registration and program information.

About The American Chestnut Foundation
Once the mighty giants of the eastern forest, American chestnuts stood up to 100 feet tall, and numbered in the billions. From Maine to Georgia, the American chestnut was a vital part of the eastern forest, provided abundant food for wildlife, and was an essential component of the economy. In the beginning of the 20th century the fungal pathogen responsible for chestnut blight, accidentally imported from Asia, spread rapidly through the eastern forests. By 1950 the fungus had eliminated the American chestnut as a mature forest tree.

In 1983, a committed group of scientists decided to do something about this ecological disaster while the species could still be saved. They formed TACF to initiate a complex breeding program to transfer genes containing disease resistance from Asian chestnut species to American chestnut. In just 20 years, these talented scientists and volunteers began to produce the first generation of trees that are 96% American chestnut but contain Asiatic genes for blight resistance. Now supported by more than 5,000 members and hundreds of volunteers in 23 states, the organization is planting and testing offspring of those trees as it continues to build and improve its breeding population. With the aid of many partner organizations, TACF is leading the restoration of an iconic species once on the brink of extinction.

The American Chestnut Foundation is a non-profit conservation organization headquartered in Asheville, NC, with 3 regional offices located in Charlottesville, VA, So. Burlington, VT, and State College, PA. The organizations research farm in Meadowview, VA has more than 50,000 trees planted in various stages of development.  For more information on TACF and its work, contact TACF Director of Communications Ruth Goodridge at 828-281-0047, email: Please visit us online at: or on Facebook at and Twitter at! t1904.

About the Schatz Tree Genetics Colloquium
Dr. Louis Schatz endowed the Schatz Center for Tree Molecular Genetics in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management at Pennsylvania State University in 1998. As part of this generous endowment, the Schatz Tree Genetics Colloquium is held every two years to provide a forum for tree genetics researchers and practitioners from around the world to review the state of the science in advanced tree genetics, propose the most promising avenues of future research, and consider joint research programs and agendas for funding by industrial, government and private sources.

The Schatz Center encompasses app. 2200 square feet of research space and 600 square feet of office space in the new Forest Resources Building.  The Schatz Center is composed of a Molecular Genetics Lab, a Quantitative Genetics Lab, a microscopy room, a tissue culture room, and equipment rooms for freezers, servers, autoclave and dishwasher.  The Schatz Center is well equipped for high throughput molecular genetics and genomics, including genetic mapping, genetic diversity, analysis of gene expression, and next generation sequencing of transcriptomes and bacterial, fungal and plant genomes.  To learn about projects underway in the Schatz Center, please visit the Schatz Center’s current projects page, under Research.

For more information contact:
Ruth Goodridge
Director of Communications
The American Chestnut Foundation
(828) 281-0047

Oak Genome (Quercus robur) Decoded

Research teams at INRA and the CEA have sequenced the genome of pedunculate oak (Quercus robur). It is the first time a Quercus species a very common one in the northern hemisphere has been sequenced. This work provides insight into the adaptation mechanisms of trees to changes in their environment and will be helpful in predicting their reactions to climate change. The findings have been published in a presubmission paper in Molecular Ecology Resources (open access) before a final publication in the next few months.

Pedunculate oak (Aveyron, France) (c) Inra, A. Kremer

The emblematic pedunculate oak tree (Quercus robur) is part of the largest botanical section of the Quercus genus: the White Oak, of which there are 200 species, is found in Europe, Asia and America. A consortium of INRA Bordeaux-Aquitaine, in partnership with Genoscope, the national sequencing centre of the CEA, has recently sequenced the genome of the pedunculate oak. Three years of work have allowed the deciphering of all genetic information carried by its 12 pairs of chromosomes. The consortium has characterised 50,000 genes and estimates that half of the 1.5 billion base pairs of the genome are composed of repeated elements. This is a first for a species of the Quercus genus, which is economically, environmentally, and even culturally important in many countries.

Sequencing the genome of the pedunculate oak has provided a unique gateway to analysing and understanding gene function in this iconic tree. Its genome can be used as a reference for other white oak species and for more distant species of the family Fagaceae (Chestnut or Beech). Internal regulation in very long-lived species exposed to strong annual climate variations and extreme events over the course of their existence can be studied. This research will also help identify which genes are involved in environmental adaptation and in symbiosis between tree roots and mycorrhizal fungi (such as truffle mycelium). Through this work it also possible to identify the genes behind the biosynthesis of wood extracts such as tannins and whisky lactone, which give flavour and taste to wines and spirits. In terms of evolution, decoding the oak genome will allow scientists to analyse local adaptation and speciation processes more accurately. These processes explain the diversity of trees, which have colonised very diverse habitats.
This work is a major breakthrough in our understanding of the biology, genetics and evolution of trees which will contribute greatly to future research on genomic structure and function in these perennial species. In addition to academic knowledge, this research creates opportunities in applied dealing with the many social factors affecting the evolution of forests.

Sharing results
In accordance with international agreements signed in Bermuda (1998), Fort Lauderdale (2003), and the recent Toronto Statement (2009), oak genome sequencing data has been made available to the scientific community free of charge ( prior to the publication in the next few months of the finalised scientific article by the consortium.

GENOAK Project
The sequencing, assembly and annotation of the oak genome is the result of the GENOAK Project (Sequencing of the oak genome and identification of genes that matter for forest tree adaptation), launched in October 2011 and co-financed by the French National Research Agency for four years. GENOAK brings together several research teams from INRA and the CEAs Genoscope centre.

Scientific contact: Christophe Plomion (33 (0)5 57 12 27 65) Biodiversity, Genes and Communities Joint Research Unit (INRA Université de Bordeaux)

FuturaGenes Eucalyptus is Approved for Commercial Use in Brazil

This is a milestone in forest biotechnology. This GM forest tree is the first in the world to be commercialized for fiber production purposes.

São Paulo, Brazil, April 10, 2015 / B3C newswire / —
The Brazilian National Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio) today approved the commercial use of the yield enhanced eucalyptus developed by FuturaGene, a wholly owned subsidiary of Suzano Pulp and Paper. Field experiments conducted since 2006 at various locations in Brazil have demonstrated an approximate 20% increase in yield compared to its equivalent conventional variety.

This is the first genetically modified (GM) eucalyptus event to be approved worldwide and represents the most significant productivity milestone for the renewable plantation forest industry since the adoption of clonal technology in the early 1990s. This approval also represents the beginning of a new era for sustainable forest management by enabling the production of more fiber, using less resources.  Brazil is the first country to complete the development cycle of such a technology.

The yield increase provided by the GM eucalyptus will provide economic, environmental and social benefits. The economic benefits include increased competitiveness for the Brazilian forestry sector. The main environmental benefits derived from using less land to produce more fiber will include lowered carbon emission through the reduction of distance between the forests and the mills, reduced use of chemical inputs and greater availability of land for other purposes, such as conservation and food production.

Partners of Suzano Pulp and Papers outgrowers program, including small landholders, who have already benefited from the company´s best seedlings for years, will have access to the technology under terms of current contracts, which do not involve the payment of royalties.

For Stanley Hirsch, FuturaGene CEO, the approval of this technology represents a breakthrough for the forestry industry: Producing more wood without increasing the use of natural resources is a constant challenge for all industry players. We are very proud to have developed an innovative technology that is capable of potentiating forestry industry competitiveness while benefitting society as a whole.

FuturaGenes yield-enhanced eucalyptus has been under development since 2001 and has undergone extensive biosafety assessment prior to submission for commercial approval.  According to Dr. Hirsch, the company has several additional products at different stages of development in its pipeline. This approval by CTNBio is an incentive for us to continue seeking innovative technological solutions that contribute for meeting the ever growing global demand for wood in a sustainable manner.

Subsequent to the approval, Suzano and FuturaGene will expand the field testing of the yield-enhanced eucalyptus in a graded and responsible manner.

FuturaGene is a leader in plant genetic research and development for the global forestry, biopower and biofuel markets. With facilities in Brazil, China and Israel, the company develops sustainable, ecologically sound technology to meet the ever increasing demands for fiber, fuel and energy crops in the face of declining land and water resources. Since July 2010, FuturaGene has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Suzano Pulp and Paper.

Suzano Pulp and Paper (Bovespa: SUZB5; OTC: SUZBY and Latibex), a subsidiary of Suzano Holding and part of the Suzano Group,  is one of the largest vertically integrated eucalyptus forestry, pulp and paper producers in Latin America. It has invested in the pulp and paper industry for over 90 years and its global operations span approximately 60 countries. The company operates six industrial units: Suzano, Rio Verde, Limeira and Embu in the state of São Paulo, Mucuri in the state of Bahia, and Imperatriz in the state of Maranhão. Suzano Pulp and Paper has an annual pulp and paper production capacity of 4.7 million tons.

Dr Christelle Kerouedan/Daniel Gooch
Instinctif Partners
London, UK
Work: +44 20 7457 2020

Sara El Kadri
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Work: +55 19 2108 3563


APHIS Withdraws 2008 Proposed Biotechnology Rules

WASHINGTON, February 27, 2015”The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is withdrawing its 2008 proposed rule that would have amended the regulations regarding the introduction (importation, interstate movement, and environmental release) of certain genetically engineered organisms.

APHIS received over 88,300 comments on the proposed rule. Based on the scope of comments received, and in light of the experience we have gained over the past 28 years as well as continuing advances in biotechnology, APHIS has decided to withdraw the rule and begin fresh stakeholder engagement aimed at exploring alternative policy approaches.

APHIS intends to utilize an open and robust dialogue to drive the development of future regulatory or policy approaches, as well as new scientific knowledge whenever it is available. That engagement will begin with a series of webinars that will be announced in the coming month.

From their Q&A:
Q: When can stakeholders and the public begin to share their input?
A: Once the 2008 proposed rule is officially withdrawn, APHIS can begin having conversations with stakeholders about regulatory issues that were not possible due to ex parte communication rules that apply during rule making. These rules are designed to prevent unequal access or the perception of favoritism during the active rulemaking period after a new rule is proposed.

IFB Comment: We see this as an opportunity to have even more meaningful discussions about biotechnology regulations that pertain to GM Trees.


GE Apples Deregulated

The U.S. Department of Agricultures (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is announcing its decision to deregulate two apple varieties genetically engineered (GE) to resist browning.

APHIS is taking this action based on a final plant pest risk assessment (PPRA) that finds the GE apples are unlikely to pose a plant pest risk to agriculture and other plants in the United States. APHIS also completed an environmental assessment (EA) to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that finds deregulation is not likely to have a significant impact on the human environment.

Under APHIS regulations, pursuant to the Plant Protection Act (PPA), APHIS is specifically required to evaluate if the apple varieties are a plant pest risk to agricultural crops or other plants or plant products. The Act defines a plant pest as organisms, such as bacteria, fungi, or insects that can cause harm to agricultural crops or other plants or plant products. If APHIS finds through its rigorous scientific review that a new GE plant is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk, then under the law and its regulations, it is required to deregulate the GE plant.

These varieties, developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. (OSF), will be marketed as the Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden. OSF is also currently engaging in a voluntary food safety assessment consultation with the Food and Drug Administration regarding its Arctic Apples.

APHIS final PPRA and final environmental assessment can be found at

Dr. Shawn Mansfield Named Forest Biotechnologist of the Year

Vancouver, BC Shawn D Mansfield, a professor in the Department of Wood Science at the Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, has been named 2014 Forest Biotechnologist of the Year by the Institute of Forest Biosciences.

Mansfield is the sixth scientist to win this award. Mansfield was nominated because of his unwavering dedication to producing world-class research, and ability to bring this topic to a broad audience with humility and an open mind that encourages valuable dialogue.

Lori Knowles, Chair of the Institute of Forest Biosciences Board (IFB), and Faculty in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Alberta, Canada notes how critical communicating with diverse stakeholders is in this field. With effort and dedication Shawn has proven that discussing complex concepts in biotechnology with people from various backgrounds and perspectives is possible and productive. We need more scientists like Shawn who can inspire meaningful dialogue about the social and environmental need for responsibly used forest biosciences.

Mansfields scientific career has focussed on understanding the molecular underpinnings of plant cell wall biosynthesis and development. Based, in part, on studies of the molecular biochemistry of tree secondary cell wall metabolism, Mansfield generally uses poplar as a model organism to investigate the fundamentals of cell wall development, but with an emphasis on developing solutions to real-world problems.

According to Adam Costanza, President of the IFB, Dr. Mansfields research is producing information that will be useful to breeders developing trees for biofuel production and resilience to climate and pest stresses. This is a critical area of focus for the IFB. Connecting research, like Shawns, to downstream users will speed up the process of showing on-the-ground value says Costanza.

Mansfields research uses a unique combination of molecular biology, biochemistry, analytical chemistry and plant cell wall characterization techniques, to elucidate the influence of various biosynthetic pathways on the development, growth, chemistry and ultrastructure of secondary xylem formation. Mansfield says our primary research is fundament in nature and curiosity driven, however, the insights gained should help shape our ability to improve and protect the very trees that underpin one of the most important industries in North America, and more importantly form a vital part of our natural ecosystems.

Malcolm Campbell, IFB board member and Vice Principal of Research at the University of Toronto Scarborough highlighted Professor Mansfield’s impressive record as a scientist and as a science communicator. “Shawn is truly a world-leading scientist, irrespective of discipline. His cutting-edge research is being published in the very best of journals, including premiere generalist journals like “Science”. This is an impressive feat for any scientist, let alone one who is conducting research on what is sometimes viewed as a “niche” area. His work is highly regarded in his field, and has also captured the public imagination. The latter is largely attributable to Shawn’s skills as a highly effective communicator – someone who is able to engage a vast array of communities.”

Mansfield earned his doctorate in Forest Biotechnology (Forestry) from The University of British Columbia, his Masters from Dalhousie University and Bachelor’s degree in biology from Mount Allison University. He did his Post Doctoral Fellowship at Forest Research (Scion) New Zealand, before joining the Faculty of Forestry at UBC in 2000, where he was the recipient of a Canada Research Chair in 2002. During his tenure at UBC, he has published 165 peer-reviewed articles and 18 book chapters and is the holder of 4 patents. Mansfield is also a Fellow of the International Academy of Sciences, and recipient of a Scientific Achievement Award from IUFRO, a MacMaster Fellowship from CSIRO and the David J Gifford Award in Tree Biology from the Canadian Society of Plant Biologists.

No Regulatory Authority Over GM Pine Tree – Follow Responsible Use Principles

Even when GM trees are not regulated, there are stewardship principles in place that promote the long-term, responsible use of them.

ArborGen sent this letter to USDA asking if their Loblolly Pine would be regulated. USDA responded with this letter to ArborGen stating it does not have regulatory authority over the tree based on the genetic construct and process used to develop it.

However, the USDA recommended that the Responsible Use Principles be followed.

The Responsible Use: Biotech Tree Principles were developed to help protect forests wherever biotech trees are used. These Principles are the first of their kind and were developed through a transparent, multi-stakeholder mechanism, to achieve the following objectives:

  • Establish a high level of performance for managing biotech trees that is recognized around the world.
  • Create a simple and effective set of practices so users along the biotech tree value chain know how to use the trees responsibly.
  • Increase societal benefits when biotech trees are used by promoting interaction and education between foresters, biotechnologists, and other stakeholders.

Embodied throughout is an understanding that biotech trees and their products should create sustainable benefits. Benefits may be derived from the biotech tree, its products, or scientific insight gained through forest biotechnology research. The Practices give users tools to help them enhance the benefits of forest biotechnology, mitigate risks and maintain the integrity of a biotech tree’s history as it moves along the value chain. Learn more about the Principles at

The following excerpt is from an article published by Capital Press

A pine tree genetically engineered for greater wood density can be grown without restrictions after the USDA decided it lacks authority to regulate the variety.

The finding has alarmed critics of genetically modified organisms who fear the new cultivar will cross-pollinate with trees in the wild, resulting in unknown consequences for forests.

ArborGen, a tree seedling producer, altered the loblolly pine variety with a gene gun inserting genetic material from the Monterey pine, the American sweetgum tree, mouse ear cress and E. coli bacteria.

None of these organisms are plant pest risks, so the USDA has determined the pine is not a regulated article and can be freely cultivated without undergoing environmental studies, unlike crops that rely on plant pathogens for their transformation.

Higher density in wood is generally associated with strength and durability in lumber as well as higher energy content for biomass uses, said Steven Strauss, a forest biotechnology professor at Oregon State University.

Biotech cultivars that rely on plant pests for gene transfer often undergo lengthy government scrutiny before theyre brought to market, he said.

The regulatory process is highly political. Its not just based on science Strauss said.

For this reason, companies are seeking alternate ways of commercializing genetically engineered crops, he said. Thats understandable from the commercial point of view.

Arborgen, for example, has tried to gain USDAs approval since 2008 for a freeze-tolerant eucalyptus tree, which was transformed with a soil pathogen and thus must receive the agencys permission for widepsread commercialization.

Environmental groups filed a lawsuit to block the company from field testing the trees, but that request was denied by a federal judge.

Even so, Arborgen was asked to submit additional data about the biotech tree in 2011 and the variety remains regulated while the USDA conducts an in-depth environmental review.

Critics of genetically modified organisms such as the Center for Food Safety worry that Arborgen was able to circumvent field trial permits and other regulatory procedures with its loblolly pine cultivar.

The group claims its unprecedented for USDA to allow a genetically engineered tree to be cultivated without any government oversight.

This is a genetically engineered organism that is going completely unregulated said Martha Crouch, biotechnology consultant for the organization.

Strauss, of OSU, said he would like to see more nimble regulations governing biotech crops but is nervous about USDAs lack of authority over GMOs produced without plant pests.

While the USDA may not consider such crops to be regulated articles, other countries may disagree ” creating the potential for chaos in the marketplace he said.

The Center for Food Safety is concerned about potential environmental impacts, alleging that changes in wood density could affect decomposition rates and forest species.

Because the USDA decided it lacks regulatory authority over the tree, the agency only considered the method of transformation without assessing any other potential risks that it might pose, said Crouch.

This is an end run around that Crouch said.

Very little information is available to the public in Arborgens request letter seeking regulatory clearance or the USDAs response, she said. We dont really know how they did it or how big of a change it is.

Arborgen was formed in 2000 by combining the biotechnology divisions of three forest products companies.

In 2010, the company filed reports with U.S. financial regulators in preparation for an initial public offering of its stock.

Those records show Arborgen losing nearly $15 million on roughly $22 million in revenues during that fiscal year. The firm later withdrew its plans to sell shares to the public due to poor market conditions.