Press Release – One hundred researchers discuss transgenic forests at international conference

Portuguese version



25 years of scientific research



The II Forest Genomics Meeting –  – held in 26 November 2012, at ITQB-UNL – Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica, Oeiras – Portugal, brought together 100 researchers from different European countries and from Brazil. The main objective was, after 25 years of scientific research, to promote discussion about the state-of-art of genetic engineering and its use in the breeding of forest trees from temperate and tropical regions.

Jorge Paiva, researcher at IICT – Instituto de Investigação Cientifica e Tropical, organizer and driving force of this meeting note that “the discussion between the participants was very important to strengthen the interaction between academic institutions and national and international businesses under the transgenic forest theme”.

Giancarlo Pasquali, a researcher at Centro de Biotecnologia da Universidade Federal from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, explains that “the research progress and commercialization of genetically modified (GM) trees follow the steps of agricultural GM varieties like soy, corn and cotton.” According to this researcher, new genetic features, e.g., disease resistance and changes, in the wood quality were already introduced in poplar, eucalyptus and pine tree”.

“Genetic engineering is a technology that, can allow productivity and wood quality enhancement when adapted to the improvement of wood producing trees”, said Pedro Fevereiro, director of Laboratório de Biotecnologia de Células Vegetais at ITQB and President of CIB- Centro de Informação de Biotecnologia. The researcher also explains “improved trees through this technology are not yet commercially available. Still, the trials in progress – in laboratory and on field – glimpse at the possibility of using this technology to breeding of forest trees in the future”.

Cristina Vettori and Matthias Fladung, coordinators of the European project COST Action FP0905 talked about several themes, widely discussed among the participants regarding the perception and attitude from the society about the biosafety regarding transgenic forest and its commercialization in Europe. This COST Action aims to gather existing scientific knowledge on GM trees and issue advices for legislation implementation in the European Union on its use.

“Health and environment risk assessment are being conducted in Europe, Brazil, China and the United States of America resorting from the long-term studies, as it is appropriate on tree species. This meeting allowed the gathering and discussing this knowledge” said Giancarlo Pasquali. “Although the commercial release of GM trees is still distant, the scientific and technological development that uses genetic engineering on trees is increasing”, he said.

The II Forest Genomics Meeting was organized under the Portuguese project “Micro-Ego” and the international project “Tree for Joules” from Plant KBBE (Transnational Plant Alliance for Novel Technologies – Towards Implementing the Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy in Europe) funded by Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), and COST Action FP0905, funded by the European Commission.

Comunicado – Centena de investigadores debateu floresta transgénica em encontro internacional

English version



25 anos de investigação científica



O II Encontro de Genómica Florestal, realizado em 26 de Novembro de 2012, no ITQB-UNL – Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica, em Oeiras, reuniu 100 investigadores de diferentes países europeus e do Brasil. O objectivo foi promover a discussão sobre o estado da arte do uso da engenharia genética no melhoramento de árvores florestais das regiões temperadas e tropicais, após 25 anos de investigação científica.

Jorge Paiva, investigador do IICT – Instituto de Investigação Científica e Tropical, impulsionador e dinamizador deste encontro destaca que “a interacção entre os participantes foi muito importante para fortalecer a colaboração entre instituições académicas e empresariais, nacionais e internacionais no âmbito do tema das florestas transgénicas”.

Giancarlo Pasquali, investigador do Centro de Biotecnologia da Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil, explica que “o avanço das pesquisas e o lançamento comercial das árvores Geneticamente Modificadas (GM) seguem os passos das variedades agrícolas GM como a soja, o milho e o algodão”. Segundo o investigador, novas características genéticas já foram introduzidas em álamo, eucalipto e pinheiro como, por exemplo, a resistência a doenças e as alterações da qualidade da madeira.

“A Engenharia Genética é uma tecnologia que adaptada ao melhoramento das árvores produtoras de madeira pode permitir ganhos importantes de produtividade e da qualidade da madeira.”, explica Pedro Fevereiro, director do Laboratório de Biotecnologia de Células Vegetais do ITQB e presidente do CiB – Centro de Informação de Biotecnologia. O investigador explica também que “a comercialização de árvores melhoradas com esta tecnologia não está ainda disponível. Contudo, os ensaios em curso – em laboratório e no campo – perspectivam a possibilidade de utilização futura desta tecnologia para o melhoramento das árvores de floresta.

Cristina Vettori e Matthias Fladung, coordenadores do projecto Europeu COST Action FP0905, abordaram diversas questões, amplamente discutidas entre os participantes, relativas à percepção e preocupação da sociedade com a biossegurança das florestas transgénicas e a sua comercialização na Europa. Esta acção COST  tem como objectivo reunir o conhecimento científico existente sobre as árvores GM e emitir recomendações para a implementação de legislação na União Europeia sobre a sua utilização.

“As avaliações de segurança para a saúde e ambiente estão a ser conduzidas na Europa, Brasil, China e Estados Unidos da América recorrendo a estudos de longa duração, como é pertinente em espécies arbóreas. O presente encontro permitiu reunir e discutir estas informações”, declarou Giancarlo Pasquali.  “Embora a libertação comercial de árvores GM ainda esteja distante, os desenvolvimentos científicos e tecnológicos que utilizam a engenharia genética de árvores avança significativamente”, acrescentou ainda.

O II Encontro de Genómica Florestal foi organizado no âmbito do projecto nacional “Micro-Ego” e do projecto internacional “Tree for Joules” do Plant KBBE (Transnational PLant Alliance for Novel Technologies – towards implementing the Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy in Europe), financiados pela Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, e pela acção COST FP0905, financiado pela Comissão Europeia.

Final Program


II Forest Genomics Meeting
Transgenic Forest Trees: time to harvest?

ITQB – Oeiras – Portugal | 26 November 2012

Book of Abstracts


II Forest Genomics Meeting
Transgenic Forest Trees: time to harvest?

ITQB – Oeiras – Portugal | 26 November 2012

News – Submission of Communications to iFOREST Journal

Authors of oral and poster communications of 2nd Forest Genomics Meeting are encouraged to submit their work for publication in iFOREST Journal, within the Collection of the COST Action FP0905.

iFOREST is a freely and universally accessible online journal. It has received an IF 0.5 from ISI Thomson just in the 2012, and it is expected an increase of it.

The typology of the papers are: Editorial, Short Communication, Reviewer paper, Research Article, Commentaries and Perspectives, and Technical Report (see some examples in the web site of iFOREST.

The papers will be published in the special Collection of the Action FP0905. Therefore, if you are interested, you have to send by e-mail to the guest editors Cristina Vettori ( and to Matthias Fladung ( your paper by the 31/12/2012 to be sent to referee.

Meeting Summary

2nd Forest Genomics Meeting:
Transgenic Forest Trees: time to harvest?

Oeiras – Portugal | 26 November 2012

Forest trees comprise 82% of the continental biomass and the forest ecosystems hold more than 50% of the terrestrial biodiversity. Forests have a prominent role in the global economy and ecology, and represent a cultural and patrimonial heritage. It is expected that world population will reach 9 billion persons by 2050 and the demand for food, wood and wood products and energy will increase dramatically, with the consequent competition for land and water use. Highly productive and low input forest tree plantations are excellent alternatives to circumvent the demand for wood mostly meet by the exploitation of natural forests. Despite the global importance of wood forests, wood tree domestication is still in its infancy, being time-consuming and expensive, in particular for complex multigenic traits, such as wood quality.

Genetic engineering (GE) has the potential to avoid the difficulties associated with classical breeding such as the time required for inter- and intra-species gene transfer, and to facilitate the introduction of economically important genes into elite genotypes (Trontin et al, 2007). GE is also considered a useful tool to demonstrate direct links between candidate genes functions and phenotype (Busov et al, 2005). These characteristic are particularly important when dealing with the long life cycle woody trees.

Since the development of the Agrobacterium-mediated method for poplar transformation, twenty five years ago (Parsons et al. 1986, Filleti et al, 1987), several efficient transformation methods have been developed for commercial important forest tree genus such as Pinus and Eucalyptus (Trontin et al, 2007; Girijashankar, 2011).

The second edition of “Forest Genomics Meeting” (FGM) is the occasion to discuss the state of art on Forest Genetically Modified Trees (GMT), including the progress achieved during the last 25 years, the analysis of biosafety issues (experimental fields and regulation) and public perception and acceptance of GMT. The 2º FGM is organized in the frame of the FCT funded projects microEGo and P-KBBE TREEFORJOULES, in collaboration with IICT, IBET, ITQB, COST Action FP0905, INIAV, LRSV and CiB.


Busov VB, et al. (2005) New Phytology 167:9–18
Fillatti JJ, et al. (1987) Molecular Genetics and Genomics206:192–199.
Girijashankar, V. (2011). Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants 17 (1): 9-23(15)
Parsons TJ et al.(1986) Nature Biotechnology 4:533–536
Trontin et al. 2007. Transgenic Plant Journal 1(2), 314-329

Organizing /Scientific Committee:

  • Jorge Paiva (IICT, Portugal)
  • Susana Araújo (IICT, Portugal)
  • Pedro Fevereiro (IBET/CIB, Portugal)
  • Edmundo Sousa (INIAV, Portugal)
  • Jacqueline Grima-Pettenati (CNRS/UPS, France)

Meeting Support Team: