Tag Archives: Responsible Use

American Chestnut: A test case for genetic engineering? – Leila Pinchot / Forest Guild

Leila Pinchot wrote an excellent article on the use of advanced biotechnologies to help restore the American chestnut for the Forest Guild’s publication, Forest Wisdom. This article discusses the efforts of the Forest Health Initiative to test the potential of using biotechnologies to help solve forest health problems:

What made the FHI unique was that, from the very beginning, the group understood the importance of involving multiple stakeholders through the entire process of developing the GE chestnut – it couldnt just be industry biotechnicians working behind closed doors. To encourage a productive conversation about the potential uses, threats and benefits of this technology, a transparent conversation is absolutely imperative.

The IFB’s Responsible Use: Biotech Tree Principles and the need for these best management practices are also discussed:

Another partner at the table was the Institute of Forest Biosciences (IFB), a non-profit formed in 2005, when forest biotechnology research was rapidly expanding, to the dismay of a dubious public (it was around this time that Europeans were fervently rejecting GE food crops). IFB was established in order to promote a dialogue among all stakeholders on the responsible use of forest biotechnology. Per Susan McCord, IFBs Ex ecutive Director, We needed an organization to bridge research and industry, to look at how to responsibly bring on new the technology. Federal agencies regulate the development and testing of transgenic plants, including trees, however the IFBs new board wanted to increase the transparency of the development of transgenic trees. This was based on the understanding that keeping the public in the dark would only increase mistrust of the technology. The IFBs recently released Responsible Use Biotech Tree Principles offer forest biotechnicians a set of voluntary guidelines, similar to Best Management Practices, for the responsible development, testing, and out-planting of transgenic trees. When asked what the main difference between the status quo process of the development of GE trees and the Responsible Use principles, IFBs President, Adam Costanza, said Transparency. We need researchers and industry to communicate with stakeholders. Communicate early, and often.

The article ends with a compelling question to the reader:

We are in a geologic era, called the Anthropocene, defined by the action of humans, as opposed to naturally occurring forces. As articulated by the title of Bill McKibbons 1989 book, in some ways we are experiencing The End of Nature, in a world where ecosystems can no longer be thought of as independent of humans. Forest management in the anthropocene is very complex, as it requires that we make management decisions today that may or may not reflect the ecological conditions of the future. It is in this context, in which we may lose American chestnut, eastern hemlock, American beech, butternut, black walnut, Port-orford cedar, flowering dogwood, the elms and the ashes; all species threatened with functional extinction and all candidates for protection or restoration via GE techniques, that we ask what tools are appropriate for forest management in the Anthropocene. Should we count on traditional breeding, should we wait for the hope of natural recovery, or do we need every tool to bring back this keystone species to hold together threatened forests?

This article is insightful and well worth the read.

Online Source: http://www.forestguild.org/publications/forest_wisdom/FW21_Pinchot.pdf | Local archived copy

The IFB Publishes Regulation, Certification, and Use of Biotech Trees Report

We are pleased to announce the release of both the printed, and community updated online version of the report: Regulation, Certification, and Use of Biotech Trees. The information in this report has been refined and presented at the IUFRO 2011 Tree Biotech meeting in Porto Seguro Brazil, and at the 2012 International Symposium on Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms in St. Louis Missouri U.S.A.

The regulatory frameworks of biotech trees in Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, U.S., Canada, South Africa, China, and New Zealand are reviewed. The approaches that top sustainable forest management systems in these countries take toward biotech trees are compared to show where regulations and certification systems overlap and diverge. Finally, there is an analysis of where, when, and for what purpose biotech trees are likely to be used commercially.

This report distills biotech material oversight into tables to more easily compare how countries approach regulation and certification of biotech trees. As an example, we show why Brazil and the U.S. are likely to commercialize biotech trees in the next few years, and why it will probably take South Africa a bit longer.

The tables make it easy to compare the total forested areas of each country, which certification schemes are predominant, and how many hectares are certified under each system.

The data are referenced and updated as of August 2013. The online version has a comment forum for the community to discuss and contribute updated information. While comments will be screened for appropriateness, the intent is to promote dialogue on certification and regulation of biotech trees.

Sponsors of the Responsible Use Initiative, and the Forest Biosciences Partnership made this report possible. You can learn more about these efforts at responsibleuse.org and forestbio.org/partners.

We appreciate your interest in the responsible use of biotech trees. We hope you and your colleagues will join in the online discussion to keep the information up to date and insightful.

Responsible Use Meeting: São Paulo Brazil, October 25-26, 2012

The IFB organized a two-day meeting in São Paulo Brazil to help establish a common understanding of the mandatory (regulation) and voluntary (certification) systems that affect the responsible use of biotech trees in Brazil. We had excellent attendance from forest product companies, industry organizations, and researchers.

Presentations from researchers set the stage for discussions on CTNBios Normative Resolution Nr5 requirements. These are high-level requirements that leave interpretation and scope up to the organization requesting deregulation of a biotech product. Progress Nr5 has 10 human and animal health related biosafety requirements, and the 13 environmental risk aspects.

The IFB gave an introduction to the Responsible Use: Biotech Tree Principles (www.responsibleuse.org) focusing on how the Principles might be used to bridge the gap in certification and global governance of biotech trees. Finally, the three sustainable forestry certification systems relevant to Brazil; CERFLOR, PECF, and FSC were discussed in regarding their individual approaches to biotech trees. The IFB combed through each system in detail. For example, we translated and annotated the Brazilian national system, CERFLOR, which is only available in Portuguese. Each system is summarized below:



Certified Area
(x 1,000 ha)

Biotech Tree Approach / Rationale

PEFC :Programme for
Endorsement of Forest Certification



Banned / Precautionary approach

based on lack of data

FSC : Forest Stewardship



Banned / Precautionary approach

based on lack of data

CERFLOR: Certificação Florestal



Banned via
PEFC registration /

No additional rationale

Notice that there are no certification systems in Brazil able to certify a forest as sustainable if there are biotech trees grown for commercial production.

The Institute of Forest Biosciences does not endorse any particular sustainable forest management or certification system. The IFB will work with systems to provide a scientific basis for making determinations about the use of biotech trees. Whether a system ultimately decides that some biotech trees can be used responsibly and certified in a sustainable forest, or not, is not the IFBs purview. The Responsible Use initiative is focused on helping to establish decision-making based on current science, open dialogue, and long-term stewardship of responsibly used biotech trees. 

Working toward these goals, the group agreed on the need to increase transparency and foster stewardship of biotech trees around the world. The IFB will work to achieve these goals through specific efforts.                                               

We would like to thank our Sponsors, and members of the Forest Biosciences Partnership for making this meeting and forthcoming Responsible Use: Biotech Tree Principles work possible.

BioCentury TV Interveiw with Adam Costanza and Carlton Owen

BioCentury This Week is a public affairs program broadcast in Washington, DC and on the web. Adam Costanza at the IFB and Carlton Owen at the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities were interviewed to discuss how advanced forest biotechnology will be used in the future.

Carlton focused on the the potential benefits to forest health, and the importance of the Forest Health Initiative in discovering if forest biotechnology is a viable tool from a science, social, and regulatory perspective.  Adam discussed why it is critically important that Responsible Use Principles are adhered to when biotech trees are used in the future.

Broadcast section 1:

Broadcast section 2: