An ad hoc committee will examine the potential use of biotechnology for mitigating threats to forest tree health; identify the ecological, economic, and social implications of deploying biotechnology in forests, and develop a research agenda to address knowledge gaps about its application. The study will focus on trees and consider at least two cases that consider the use of biotechnology to protect a tree species from an insect and/or disease where negative consequences for forest health are anticipated. It will be guided by the following questions:
- What is the current state of the science regarding the potential for using genetic engineering (GE) and similar technologies in trees to improve forest health?
- What are the potential ecological and economic impacts of deploying trees protected from pests and pathogens using biotechnology?
- What other unique challenges and opportunities are posed by the development of a GE product for a non-commercial, public good such as forest health?
- What research is needed to fill knowledge gaps about developing and using GE as a tool to protect forest health?
- In what ways does the current regulatory system include forest health in evaluating the ecological and environmental risks of deploying trees developed with GE, and how does this compare with regulatory evaluation of impacts for other methods used to address forest health threats such as non-GE trees or other biological control or pesticide approaches?
- What information or analysis is needed to inform a risk framework that provides assurances for minimizing the risks of using GE while increasing benefits to forest health; for example, what characteristics of forest health are central to a risk framework? How can adaptive management be used to enable realistic testing and assessment of biotechnology approaches for mitigating threats to forest health?
- What does existing research reveal about public views on the use of biotechnology to improve forest health?
The committee will prepare a report that addresses the questions above and explains the basis for its conclusions and recommendations.