On March 27th, GJEP and Biofuelwatch provided expert testimony for a panel hosted by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on the “Risks, Concerns, and Potential Problems Regarding the Use of Biotechnology to Address Forest Health." On March 28th, the day after the panel, The Hill published an Op-Ed by the expert witnesses entitled "The forests are in crises but biotechnology is not the solution."
Regarding the the problems of biotechnology as it is used to address forest health, two of the experts had the following statements.
Anne Peterman, executive director of the Global Justice Ecology Project and coordinator of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees stated:
"In debating whether biotechnology and genetically engineered trees can be used for forest health restoration, the first question must be whether this is a safe approach. The last thing the forests need is an added threat. The problem with introducing genetically engineered trees that can live for 50, 100 or 200 years, as in the case of the American chestnut, is that it is not possible to understand and assess the risks- the irreversible risks- these trees could pose to forests over the course of their entire lifespan. It is for that reason that the Federation of German Scientists has pointed out that risk assessment of GE trees is not possible. The only course then is the Precautionary Approach, which demands GE trees be proven safe before they are released. No such safety is guaranteed, so GE trees must be rejected."
Dr. Rachel Smolker, a co-director of Biofuelwatch and board member of Global Forest Coalition stated:
"Any evaluation of the potential for biotechnology to address forest threats has to begin with a very clear distinction between industrial tree plantations, which should not be considered forests, and real forests. Most tree biotechnology has focussed on how to grow more wood biomass at a faster rate in monocultures with pesticides and herbicides and little natural biodiversity, and with the specific intent of cutting the trees down and replanting at regular intervals. Natural forests are entirely different, complex ecosystems. The threats to our natural forests are serious, including climate change and an ongoing parade of introduced pests and pathogens as a result of trade practices. Introducing GE trees into nature has the potential to cause more harm than good. We must address the underlying causes of forest decline, not waste time on risky technofix approaches. "