Study in Progress

The Potential for Biotechnology to Address Forest Health

View Main Study Website Here


Meeting 1: The Potential for Biotechnology to Address Forest Health - 12/01/17
Webinar 1: The Potential for Biotechnology to Address Forest Health - 12/12/17
Webinar 2: The Potential for Biotechnology to Address Forest Health - 02/12/18

Statement of Task

An ad hoc committee will examine the potential use of biotechnology to mitigate threats to forest tree health, identify the ecological, ethical, and social implications of deploying biotechnology in forests, and develop a research agenda to address knowledge gaps about its application. The study will focus on trees and consider the use of biotechnology to prevent the extirpation of a single tree species by an insect or disease that could have negative consequences for forest health. The study will examine the following questions:

1. What is the current state of the science regarding the potential for using genetic engineering and similar technologies in trees to improve forest health?

2. What are the ethical, legal, and social implications of using or not using genetic engineering to improve forest health?

3. What other unique challenges and opportunities are posed by the development of a genetically engineered product for a non-commercial, public good such as forest health?

4. What research is needed to fill knowledge gaps about developing and using genetic engineering as a tool to protect forest health?

5. What information or analysis is needed to develop a risk framework for using genetic engineering that can optimize benefits to forest health, and can adaptive management be used to responsibly advance the use of biotechnology for forest health?

6. How might the evaluation of the ecological and environmental risks of deploying trees developed with genetic engineering be balanced with the risk to forest health if the technology is not deployed, or relative to the risks of deploying trees developed using other (non-GE) methods?

The committee will prepare a report that addresses the questions above and explains the basis for its conclusions and recommendations.