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CNR: Alamanacco della Scienza


N. 5 - 12 mar 2014
ISSN 2037-4801

International info   a cura di Cecilia Migali


Biosafety of forest transgenic trees

The European Cooperation in Science and Technology (Cost) Action FP0905 is aimed at evaluating the scientific knowledge of genetically modified trees (Gmt) related to biosafety protocols and coordinating existing and new information from various European countries.

Their final workshop has been held recently at the Cnr in Rome, organized by Cristina Vettori, chair of the cooperation and researcher at Cnr-Institute of Bioscience and Bioresources (Cnr-Ibbr).

The present debate on genetically modified organisms (Gmos) currently focuses on crop plants, but not for forest trees. Forest tress are of specific importance however as they have the potential to address the increasing worldwide demand for fuel, fibre and energy. For example, genetic engineering has the potential to develop a tree which has a high biomass yield (e.g. more wood per unit area at less time), grows easily in variable climate conditions, can be tailored for specific uses (e.g. wood for energy) and does not require high amounts of water, nutrients or aid to protect its growth.

The rationale for opting for genetic engineering is that genetic improvement (breeding) of forest trees via cross-pollination is slow due to the long generation times and vegetative periods. Due to global increases in energy costs and the growing investment in bio-based products, there is a heightened interest in genetically modified trees as an alternative. Experts also pointed out that genetically modified trees plantations could play an important role in mitigating climate change and environmental pollution

Commenting about the FP7-funded Cost Action FP0905, Cristina Vettori said: “This Action has been fundamental, on the one hand, to address policy-making efforts and, on the other hand, to allow the scientific community to discuss to public concerns in a responsible way, particularly concerning socio-economic implications and biosafety issues of transgenic tree plantations.”

"As a novel discussion forum", added Matthias Fladung, vice-chair of the cooperation and researcher at the Thünen Institute (TI) of Forest Genetics, Grosshansdorf, Germany, "the Action has contributed to the scientific basis underlying future EU policy, regulation and safety assessment of Gm trees. This is of particular importance, as most of the consensus documents on biosafety issues and approvals of transgenic organisms have been made for crop plants, but not for forest trees".

Fonte: Cristina Vettori, Istituto di bioscienze e biorisorse del Cnr, tel. 055/5225728, email cristina.vettori@cnr.it