Possibilities and Considerations
Committee on the Potential for Biotechnology to Address Forest Health
Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division on Earth and Life Studies
A Consensus Study Report of
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This study was supported by the Agricultural Research Service (Agreement No. 59-0790-7-0018), the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (Agreement No. 16-2000-0094-GR), the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Agreement No. 2017-38832-26613), and the U.S. Forest Service (Agreement No. 16-DG-11132650-299) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Grant Agreement E17-49); and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Contract No. EP-C-14-005). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-48288-2
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-48288-7
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/25221
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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Forest Health and Biotechnology: Possibilities and Considerations. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/25221.
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COMMITTEE ON THE POTENTIAL FOR BIOTECHNOLOGY TO ADDRESS FOREST HEALTH
SUSAN E. OFFUTT, U.S. Government Accountability Office (retired), Oakland, MD
VIKRAM E. CHHATRE, University of Wyoming, Laramie
JASON A. DELBORNE, North Carolina State University, Raleigh
STEPHEN DIFAZIO, West Virginia University, Morgantown
DORIA R. GORDON, Environmental Defense Fund, Washington, DC
INÉS IBÁÑEZ, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
GREGORY JAFFE, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, DC
MARK D. NEEDHAM, Oregon State University, Corvallis
CLARE PALMER, Texas A&M University, College Station
JEANNE ROMERO-SEVERSON, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN
RONALD R. SEDEROFF (NAS), North Carolina State University, Raleigh
DIANA L. SIX, University of Montana, Missoula
RICHARD A. SNIEZKO, U.S. Forest Service, Cottage Grove, OR
KARA N. LANEY, Study Director
JENNA BRISCOE, Research Assistant
BOARD ON AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES
CHARLES W. RICE, Kansas State University, Manhattan
SHANE C. BURGESS, University of Arizona, Tucson
SUSAN CAPALBO, Oregon State University, Corvallis
GAIL CZARNECKI-MAULDEN, Nestlé Purina PetCare, St. Louis, MO
GEBISA EJETA, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
JAMES S. FAMIGLIETTI, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena
FRED GOULD (NAS), North Carolina State University, Raleigh
DOUGLAS B. JACKSON-SMITH, The Ohio State University, Wooster
JAMES W. JONES (NAE), University of Florida, Gainesville
STEPHEN S. KELLEY, North Carolina State University, Raleigh
JAN E. LEACH, Colorado State University, Fort Collins
JILL J. McCLUSKEY, Washington State University, Pullman
KAREN I. PLAUT, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
JIM E. RIVIERE (NAM), Kansas State University, Manhattan
ROBIN A. SCHOEN, Director
CAMILLA YANDOC ABLES, Senior Program Officer
JENNA BRISCOE, Research Assistant
KARA N. LANEY, Senior Program Officer
PEGGY TSAI YIH, Senior Program Officer
Nearly one-third of the United States is covered by forests, accounting for more than 1 million square miles, an area exceeded only in Brazil, Canada, and Russia. These forest ecosystems play vital roles in carbon storage, nutrient cycling, and air and water purification, as well as in supplying habitat for wildlife. Forests hold historical, cultural, and social significance for Americans and are sources of both food and fiber. Today, these valued resources are endangered as never before. Global commerce has hastened the introduction of nonnative, invasive tree pests and diseases, and those native to the country are becoming more virulent due to external drivers such as climate change. The loss of a tree species can have cascading adverse effects on the forest ecosystem and on the range of services it provides and the values it represents to human populations.
Against this backdrop, a consortium of federal agencies asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to consider the potential for the use of biotechnology to mitigate these threats to the health of the nation’s forests. Accordingly, our committee took up the tasks of assessing the ecological, economic, and social implications of deployment of a genetically modified tree and of identifying the knowledge needed to evaluate the ways such a tree might affect the prospects for forest health. The circumstances of introduction of a long-lived biotech tree into a forest ecosystem would be novel compared with the use of the technology in industrial plantations or, indeed, in annual agricultural crops. The release of a tree developed to be resistant to a pest or disease would be intended to promote its survival and proliferation in a natural forest setting.
The committee’s members represent an unusually wide range of disciplines, from genetics to ecology and from the law to social science and philosophy. The group embraced the holistic view set out in its charge and probed the biophysical and the cultural and social impacts that might arise from the introduction of a biotech tree. Contemplating the rapidly evolving science and emerging public views relevant to the use of biotechnology in forest trees, the committee found itself surveying a frontier of possibilities for different kinds of trees and ecosystems. The release of a biotech tree has no direct precedent, and so the committee listened to a range of voices in the scientific community and in civil society as they speculated on the likely implications of an introduction. Unease about the advisability of the use of biotechnology in the environment will continue to be a
factor in public dialogue as biotech trees are considered further. As might be imagined, the committee’s discussions have been lively as we have tried to accommodate a diversity of perspectives, anticipate key information needs, and chart the way forward for researchers, government scientific and regulatory officials, and society at large.
None of the work the committee has done would have been possible without the stalwart support of Kara Laney, study director, and Jenna Briscoe, research assistant, of the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources. Kara has been a gracious and steadying presence as we have tried to meld our disparate thoughts into a cohesive narrative. In our meetings, Jenna was a wizard when it came to listening to our fragmented discussion and transforming it instantly into text that we could see and use to move deliberations forward. All of the members of our committee have invested significant time and energy in meeting the challenge of our task, and I am grateful for their dedication. I have learned much from their expertise and their wisdom, and I am the better for it. Finally, thanks go to those who reviewed our draft report and provided comments and advice that have made it a better product for our sponsors and for the public concerned with the future of America’s forests.
Susan E. Offutt, Chair
Committee on the Potential for Biotechnology to Address Forest Health
This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
Sally N. Aitken, University of British Columbia
Ann M. Bartuska, Resources for the Future
Steven P. Bradbury, Iowa State University
Joseph P. Brewer II, University of Kansas
John E. Carlson, The Pennsylvania State University
Melissa M. Goldstein, The George Washington University
Shannon M. Hagerman, University of British Columbia
Lynn A. Maguire, Duke University
Louis Pitelka, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Ronald Sandler, Northeastern University
Roger R. Schmidt, IBM Corporation
Kathleen Segerson, University of Connecticut
Daniel Simberloff, University of Tennessee
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see
the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by May R. Berenbaum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.
|APHIS||Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service|
|CFR||Code of Federal Regulations|
|CRISPR||Clustered Regularly-Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats|
|EAB||emerald ash borer|
|EIS||Environmental Impact Statement|
|EPA||U.S. Environmental Protection Agency|
|FDA||U.S. Food and Drug Administration|
|FFDCA||Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act|
|FIFRA||Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act|
|FONSI||Finding of No Significant Impact|
|FWS||Fish and Wildlife Service|
|HERA||Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment|
|NEPA||National Environmental Policy Act|
|QTL||quantitative trait locus|
|PERAL||Plant Epidemiology and Risk Assessment Laboratory|
|USDA||U.S. Department of Agriculture|