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GMO Trees

August 26, 2015

Should regulations that limit genetic engineering research be modified to allow GMO trees?



Poplars  Argentina Rafael Edwards CC BY-NC 2.0, via flickr

Could genetically modified trees help forests withstand insect infestations and climate change? (Rafael Edwards/CC BY-NC 2.0, via flickr)

Genetic engineering and forests. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Climate change and exotic insects and diseases threaten forests in the U.S. and worldwide. In the journal Science, Oregon State University biotechnologist Steven Strauss writes that trees grow and reproduce too slowly to adapt to such rapid change. He and other biotechnologists would like to genetically engineer trees that can withstand these new threats. But he says that would require changing decades-old regulations that treat trees the same as genetically engineered food crops.

STEVEN STRAUSS (Oregon State University):

We’d also like the regulations to recognize when we’re not moving a gene from a faraway place like a bacterium, but more precisely modifying native tree genetics.


He argues that new policies should focus on the suitability of the organism that’s produced, rather than on the method used to produce it. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.