National Research Council of Italy

Institute of Biosciences and BioResources

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IBBR publication #2817

COST Action FP0905: Biosafety of forest transgenic trees

Vettori C, Pilate G, Häggman H, Gallardo F, Ionita L, Ruohonen-Lehto M, Glandorf B, Harfouche A, Biricolti S, Paffetti D, Kazana V, Sijacic-Nikolic M, Tsourgiannis L, Migliacci F, Donnarumma F, Minol K, Fladung M

2nd Genomic Forest Meeting - Transgenic Forest Trees: Time to Harvest?, Oeiras, Portugal, 26nd November 2012 (2012)

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. This will help to provide a basis for future EU policy and regulation recommendations regarding the use of GM forest trees. In this context, the Action work plan is organized in 4 Working Groups (WGs) focuses on: i) the biological characterization of GMTs aiming to evaluate existing knowledge including the experience from expert scientists in the field of forest GMTs (WG1), ii) the assessment of possible environmental impacts and monitoring of GMTs in the whole production chain from plantation to final products (WG2); iii) the socio-economic implications and public acceptance and concerns of potential use of GM forest trees and R&D investments in the framework of Cost-Benefit Analysis (WG3) and iv) increasing public awareness and understanding of GM forest plantations by providing science-based information through management of the dynamic website (WG4). A large, but diverse, body of knowledge on the environmental effects and biosafety issues of transgenic trees and other transgenic organisms has been acquired in many countries over approximately the past 25 years. Because of the potential unification of European states, there is now an urgent need to compile, collate, and analyze this scattered knowledge in order to create a unique platform of knowledge particular to the European environment. For this, WG1 has launched the building of a database that gather the current knowledge on field trials and greenhouse experiments with transgenic trees. The knowledge gained will ultimately be used to guide the safe use and management of GMTs in forest tree plantations and to protect forest ecosystems. To support this goal, WG2 is launching and moving through expert-based surveys to: 1) evaluate the environmental impacts of the GMTs already developed and 2) assess the efficiency of existing transgene containment strategies 3) investigate effective pre- and post-market monitoring techniques. The expected outcome from WG1 is to develop a clear factual overview of the status of GMTs in European and non-European countries in order to provide sound scientific data for risk assessment to be further evaluated and monitored in WG2. In addition, it is very important to understand the kind of policies needed to meet the concerns of the society in relation to the possible use of GM trees which are widely spread in many of the Europe countries. Therefore, two types of surveys are being conducted worldwide by WG3: one to define a set of environmental and socio-economic indicators to be included in Cost-Benefit Analyses, and a Knowledge Attitude Perception (KAP) survey to explore public attitude towards adoption of transgenic forest trees. The cross- country results of the KAP surveys are expected to provide policy support to the European Commission with regards to public acceptance of transgenic forest trees and their potential conflicts of values. On the other hand, through WG4, accurate and science-based information is being communicated through our website to help educate the general public on technical, socio-economic and environmental aspects of GM forest trees. In addition, the website provides an open discussion forum on transgenic forest biotechnology and biosafety, as well as on the potential impact of transgenic tree plantations on the current established forestry practices. Preliminary results of this research will be reported. - Keywords: Transgenic trees, Biosafety

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