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.

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