Transgenic trees face rocky path from farm to forest

Report from the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine highlights thorny issues with releasing engineered trees into the wild

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For more than three decades, US farmers have been growing genetically engineered crops. Now researchers are pushing to move the technology from farm to forest by releasing transgenic trees — engineered to carry genes that would make them resistant to pests — into the wild.

Regulatory and research challenges to such genetically modified trees could make that transition harder, according to a report released by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on 8 January. However, genetic engineering’s potential to boost forest health is promising enough to warrant further research, the report authors say.

The report comes amid growing concern about the health of forests in the face of climate change and invasive pests. Disease outbreaks and infestations are a normal part of woodland life. But climate change and increasing international commerce and travel have allowed non-native pests and diseases to infiltrate naïve forests.


By: Heidi Ledford/Nature News

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