Transgenic trees and forestry biosafety
Keywords: biosafety, forestry biotechnology, GMOs, GM trees.
The benefits from the development of transgenic trees are expected from the improvement of traits as growth and form, wood quality, industrial processes, disease and insect resistance, herbicide tolerance, ecological restoration, rooting ability, etc. One of the first reported field trials with genetically modified forest trees was established in Belgium in 1988 and the characteristic evaluated was herbicide tolerance in poplars. Since then, there have been more than 200 reported trials, involving at least 15 forest species. The majority of the field trials have been carried out in the USA (64%). More than 50% of the field trials are done with Populus species and the main target traits are herbicide tolerance (31%), followed by marker genes (23%) and insect resistance (14%). Until today, there is only one report on commercial-scale production of transgenic forest trees which is Populus nigra with the Bt gene release in China in 2002 and established on commercial plantations in 2003. Operational application of GMO's in forestry depends on technical, economical, political and public aspects, but the development of adequate regulatory frameworks and public acceptance of transgenic trees will define the future of this technology in forestry.
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