International Symposium on Ecological and Social Aspects of Transgenic Forest Plantations

Venue: Stevenson

Location: Stevenson, Washington, United States

Event Date/Time: Jul 22, 2001 End Date/Time: Jul 24, 2001
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International Symposium on Ecological and Societal Aspects of Transgenic Forest Plantations
July 22-24, 2001
Skamania Lodge, Stevenson, Washington
Columbia River Gorge
Pacific Northwest United States


Forests play prominent and diverse roles in the lives of people, biotic communities, and ecosystems. We are economically dependent on forests for numerous products, but also tend them to provide sources of clean water, habitat, and recreational and spiritual sanctuaries. Because of the broad array of uses and functions for forests, changes in the species or genetic characteristics of the trees that dominate them are of significant ecological and societal concern.

The ability to genetically modify forest trees via asexual methods is in its infancy. However, some kinds of modified trees could find their way out of laboratories and field plots and onto the world's landscapes within a few years. Many more possibilities for genetic modification will soon arise as a result of the genomics revolution in biology--where thousands of genes can be isolated and studied in a modest time frame.

The kinds of genes employed, and the kinds of tree species and productions systems in which they are inserted, are extraordinarily diverse. Generalities about benefits and safety of GM trees are therefore of very limited scientific value. A key goal of this symposium is to move past generalities and consider specific ecological benefits and safety concerns that apply to diverse kinds of genetic alterations and management regimes.

Because the use and control of genetically modified trees affects the societal distribution of their benefits and risks, both real and perceived, the symposium will begin with consideration of societal and ethical context within which genetically modified trees are considered and employed. Ecological issues will comprise the majority of the symposium.


The symposium is planned for July 22-24, 2001, at Skamania Lodge, in the Columbia River Gorge near Portland, Oregon.It will begin with a reception the evening of July 22, plenary lectures will occur on July 23, then breakout sessions and summary lectures will be held on July 24. It will be held as a satellite meeting, in conjunction with a week-long international meeting of the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO) unit on Molecular Biology of Forest Trees:

Concurrent break-out sessions, described below, will be employed to analyze and make recommendations about specific ecological issues. Each breakout session will be repeated at least once to give different subsets of participants a chance to reach independent conclusions. Results of the breakout sessions will be presented to the reconvened group. The meeting will end with summary perspectives from several speakers, including the moderators, and a written survey of views.

A proceedings with short papers from the speakers, including a summary of the break-out sessions and surveys, will be edited, formatted, publicized widely, and made available internationally via the world wide web.

>>Speaker Publication Guidelines<<


These sessions will address the appropriate global and biological context within which transgenic trees should be considered; the desirability and mechanics of genetic containment; and traits that could realistically be employed on a large scale in production forests within the next two decades. The list of breakout sessions and their content are tentatively:

Can transgenic trees make a significant contribution to economic efficiency and/or environmental safety of global forestry?
What is a wise pace of research, development, and deployment of transgenic trees given global economic and ecologic pressures from expanding population and consumption?
Is a moratorium on research and field testing, or a very long delay (decades) until most ecological and social issues are thoroughly studied, wisely precautionary or well-intended but foolish?
Would a more transparent and accessible system for commercial use, one that is less proprietary and provides for public monitoring of results of large scale research and commercial deployment, improve public acceptance? Or would this reduce investment and make studies more prone to misrepresentations and vandalism?

GM trees will largely be employed in intensively managed systems such as fiber planatations. In this context, are ecological issues of GM plantations significantly different from those faced during the routine intensive manipulations inherent to such systems--including fertilization, weed control, breeding, hybridization, cloning, and use of exotic species?
Do marker genes, or other sequences or genomic changes associated with gene transfer (e.g., antibiotic resistance genes, somaclonal variation), pose significant concerns or threats?
To what extent is large scale, possibly commercial use, required for learning about true value and ecological impact?

Are fertility control systems, or vegetative propagation control systems, needed for gene containment?
If so, for which kinds of gametes (male/female), genes, species, and environments? How stringent (i.e., complete and permanent) should containment be? How can this be predicted?
How, and how long, do genetic containment systems need to be tested before commercial use, and then monitored during commercial use?

Will transgenic trees be significantly more invasive or difficult to control?
What kinds of genes, in what species, are expected to impart a large increase in fitness that would lead to invasiveness in wild populations?
Are invasive, exotic tree species a useful or misleading biological analogy for considering the safety of GM trees?
Do GM trees pose a significant threat to wild forests? How and when?

Breeding to enhance the yield and quality of the economically desirable portions of plants, including trees, have been hallmarks of domestication. Does the modification of wood structure or chemistry via GM pose special concerns that cannot be adequately addressed during the normal process of field testing for productivity and resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses?
Is this a trait for which there is very little risk of increased invasivness, and thus gene containment is unncecessary in most cases?

What are the implications of GM plantations for biodiversity? Should this be assessed on stand, landscape, or global scales?
What are the implications of using non-flowering, herbicide tolerant, or insect resistant trees for biodiversity within stands?
How do the changes that might occur compare to the ecological effects of intensive plantation forestry?
Can GM trees, as tools for management, be used to increase stand or lanscape biodiversity if desired? How could this be accomplished?

Can insect resistant trees that results from one or very few transgenes provide useful, ecologically desirable, and adequately sustainable levels of resistance in intensively managed plantations? How should sustainability be defined--based on individual genes or general technological progress (e.g., sequential use of different resistance genes over rotations)?
For what genes, species, pests, and management systems could sustainability be adequate? What studies and monitoring should be required if such trees are employed?
Can oligogenic resistance in GM trees also be considered an unacceptable risk for increased invasiveness or impact on non-target species? Is gene containment needed when insect resistance genes are employed?




Dr. Steve Strauss

Scope, guidelines, and goals for symposium

Dr. Strauss leads a university-industry consortium on forest biotechnology focused on analysis of and genetic engineering solutions to ecological concerns of gene flow from transgenic plantations.

Drs. Michal Clegg and Hal Salwasser

Moderating the symposium toward meaningful exchange and synthesis

Dr. Clegg is Professor at the University of California, Riverside, and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences. He is a world renowned plant geneticist who studies molecular mechanisms of plant diversity and evolution, and has been involved with several studies of issues surrounding plant biotechnology.

Dr. Salwasser is Dean of the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, and former Research Station Director and Regional Forester for the United States Forest Service. He is a wildlife biologist, former President of the Wildlife Society, and played a major role in moving the U.S. Forest Service toward ecologically based forest management systems. .

Dr. W. Steven Burke

Growing new questions: The societal and ethical imperatives of forest biotechnology

Mr. Burke is Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs and External Relations, North Carolina Biotechnology Center. Mr. Burke has worked on development of new biotechnology communities, shaped by geography and content area, and the associated public, societal, and ethical issues that must necessarily be considered in those communities.


Dr. Roger Sedjo

Economic contribution of biotechnology and forest plantations in global wood supply and forest conservation

Dr. Sedjo is a resource economist at Resources for the Future in Washington, D.C. He has written widely on the role of plantations in meeting global fiber demands, and the potential for biotechnology to elevate economic productivity.

Dr. David Victor

Plantations and forest protection: a long-term, global view

Dr. David G. Victor is the Director, Science and Technology Program, at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. He has written widely on international environmental law; trade and environment; energy technology; and global warming.

Dr. Patrick Moore

Role of plantation forestry in meeting global resource needs and conserving biological diversity

Dr. Moore is an internationally known environmentalist active in forestry issues. He is a world leader in defining how to make forestry sustainable from both for product and ecological perspectives.

Dr. Don S. Doering

Will the marketplace see the sustainable forest for the transgenic trees?

Dr. Doering is on the senior staff of the World Resources Institute, a leading research institute in environment and development policy and action. He leads a project on genetic engineering that engages the private sector on business and scientific strategy to serve sustainability goals of food, material, and environmental security.


Dr. Sandra Thomas

Ethical and social considerations in commercial uses of transgenic food and fiber crops

Dr. Thomas heads the Program at Bioethics at the Nuffield Foundation in the UK, and led in the production of their landmark 1999 report entitled "Genetically Modified Crops: the Social and Ethical Issues."

Dr. Paul B. Thompson

Ethics of molecular silviculture

Dr. Thompson is the author of Food Biotechnology in Perspective and internationally known for his work on the environmental ethics of genetic engineering. He holds the Joyce and Edward E. Brewer Chair in Applied Ethics at Purdue University

Dr. Melissa Finucane

Public perceptions of genetically modified organisms: Influential socio-cultural and psychological factors

Dr. Finucane is a Research Scientist at Decision Research, Eugene, Oregon. Her current research interests are in human judgement, decision making, and risk perception. Recent publications focus on the way affect (i.e., emotion) helps people to make sense of complex environmental and health information and on socio-cultural aspects of the perceived risk of hazardous activities and technologies.


Dr. David Heron (or USDA-APHIS alternate)

Current and evolving regulatory requirements for commercial uses of transgenic crops and trees in the USA

Dr. Heron has been a key scientist on the plant biotechnology regulatory team at USDA, and has participated in many national and international fora concerning regulation of transgenic crops that have interfertile wild relatives, including trees.

Dr. Phil Hutton (or EPA alternate)

Current and evolving regulatory requirements for commercial uses of insect-resistant transgenic trees in the USA

Dr. Hutton leads the biopesticide regulatory group at EPA responsible for regulation and resistance management plans for insect-resistant, transgenic crops.

Dr. Sue Mayer

International regulation and public acceptance of GM trees: demanding a new approach to risk assessment

Dr Sue Mayer is the Executive Director of GeneWatch based in the UK. She has a PhD in Veterinary Cell Biology from Bristol University, was Director of Science at Greenpeace UK from 1990-1995 where she was involved in developing policy on genetically modified organisms, and is currently a member of the UK Government's Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission.

Dr. Charles Benbrook

Commercial, political, and regulatory issues: Lessons from the first generation of agricultural biotechnology products

Dr. Benbrook was Executive Director of the National Research Council Board on Agriculture from 1984 to 1990, overseeing a number of NRC reports on biotechnology. He currently manages one of the major independent agriculture biotechnology websites (Ag BioTech InfoNet,

IFB Director

Growing a new community: Establishment and work of the institute of forest Biotechnology

Executive Director, Institute of Forest Biotechnology (IFB), Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The Institute of Forest Biotechnology was created in 2000 by senior representatives of the academic, industry, and policy sectors, to assist in the effective and thoughtful development of forest biotechnology worldwide. A private non-profit corporation, the Institute will not undertake research; it will instead bring together an international community addressing policy, issues, and shared programs.


Drs. Jim Boyle and Heléne Lundkvist

Ecological and landscape considerations for intensive forestry systems

Dr. Boyle is a Professor of Forestry and Soil Ecology at Oregon State University. He has taught and studied forest ecosystem sustainability for more than three decades, and co-edited the books "Planted Forests: Contributions to the Quest for Sustainable Societies" and "Forest Soils and Ecosystem Sustainability." Dr Lundkvist is a Professor of Soil Ecology at the Forestry Faculty of The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Her research is focussed upon how soil organisms and processes are affected by forest management practices.

Drs. Dave Ellis and Rick Meilan

Technical feasibility of genetic engineering in forestry: Transformation, transgene stability, and somaclonal variation

Drs. Ellis and Meilan are leading researchers in programs that have produced and tested transgenic trees for their field performance for a number of years.

Drs. Rowland Burdon and Christian Walter

Perspectives on risk of transgenic forest plantations in relation to conventional breeding and use of exotic pines: Viewpoints of practicing breeding and transformation scientists

Dr. Burdon, who is currently Science Fellow at the New Zealand Forest Research Institute, is widely known in the fields of tree breeding and quantitative genetics. Also at NZFRI, Dr. Walter is a leading scientist in the field of conifer genetic engineering, and has developed transformation protocols for a variety of conifer species.

Dr. Daniel Carraway (or alternate)

Research and development goals for Arborgen: A joint venture of International Paper, Westvaco, and Fletcher Challenge

Dr. Carraway has led the genetic engineering program at International Paper for several years, including the development of international partnerships in forest biotechnology.


Dr. Faith T. Campbell

Genetically engineered trees: proceed only with caution

Dr. Campbell heads the invasive species program at American Lands Alliance, an environmental organization committed to protecting forests and other ecosystems. Dr. Campbell has written widely on the policy challenges posed by invasive alien plants and forest pests and — more recently — on those raised by genetically engineered trees.

Drs. Jim Hancock and Karen Hokanson

Invasiveness of Transgenic vs. Exotic Plant Species: How Useful Is the Analogy?

Dr. Hancock is a Professor at Michigan State University and author of the book "Crop Evolution and the Origin of Crop Species." He has have published a number of articles on the risk of pollen escape, and has been an invited panalist at a number of national and international conferences on transgenic risk assessment. Dr. Hokanson is currently on the Environmental Monitoring Team of the Invasive Species and Pest Management Unit with USDA/APHIS.

Drs. Brian Johnson and Keith Kirby

Potential effects of genetically modified trees on biodiversity of forest plantations: a global view

Dr. Johnson is head of biotechnology assessment, and Dr. Kirby head of forestry, for English Nature, a statutory body that advises the UK government on impacts of agriculture and forestry practices on ecological health of the British environment, and maintains legally protected areas and national nature reserves.

Dr. John Hayes

Biodiversity implications of transgenic plantations

Dr. Hayes is an Associate Professor of wildlife ecology in the Department of Forest Science at Oregon State University and is program coordinator for the Cooperative Forest Ecosystem Research (CFER) program. His research has emphasized the biodiversity implictions of forest management.

Dr. Kenneth Raffa

Use of transgenic resistance in short-rotation poplars: Efficacy, risk, and integration with other pest management tactics

Dr. Raffa has been a leader in assessing how to use insect-resistant trees within integrated resistance management programs to increase the durability of resistance and minimize non-target impacts.

Dr. Peter Kareiva

How can we monitor as a means of addressing uncertainty about the risks of long-lived transgenic crops?

Dr. Kareiva has been a leader in considering the ecological and population management issues raised by the use of transgenic crops.

Dr. Stephen DiFazio

Assessment of ecological impacts of transgenic plantations: Gene flow and ecophysiology

Dr. DiFazio has led a research program to measure gene flow from tree plantations, and to use it to predict the ecological effects from deployment of transgenic poplars.



Drs. Toby Bradshaw and Ron Sederoff

Forest tree biotechnology in the 21st century

Professor Bradshaw is the Director of the Poplar Molecular Genetics Cooperative at the University of Washington. His research group works on the genetic basis of growth, form, and adaptation to the environment in poplars. Professor Sederoff is the Director of the Forest Biotechnology Group at North Carolina State University. His research has focused upon the biology of wood formation in loblolly pine.

Drs. Daniel Botkin, Steve Strauss, Hal Salwasser and Michael Clegg

Lessons from the symposium: Reducing diverse views to research priorities, policy, and practice

Each speaker will present their views of the key points reached, and areas of consensus and disagreement.

Dr. Botkin is a senior forest ecologist who has worked and written widely on diverse environmental and forestry issues. He now serves on the Biotechnology Advisory Committee of the USDA.

Dr. Strauss leads a university-industry consortium on forest biotechnology focused on analysis of and genetic engineering solutions to ecological concerns of gene flow from transgenic plantations.

Information Request
This symposium will be held in conjunction with an IUFRO conference on Tree Biotechnology in the next Millennium. Further information on both meetings can be obtained by completing the the IUFRO conference pre-registration form.