Forest Genetic Resources Working Paper 59

Preliminary review of biotechnology in forestry, including genetic modification

December 2004

Forest Resources Development Service Working Paper FGR/59E
Forest Resources Division FAO, Rome, Italy


At its 13th Session, in November 2003, the FAO Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources reviewed the relevance and discussed the feasibility of a global review of biotechnology in forestry, as part of an FAO effort to assess the global status and trends of forest tree genetic diversity. This paper is the first attempt to provide statistical information on the extent and patterns of biotechnology research and applications in forest trees, worldwide. Other studies are anticipated, in particular analyses of economic and other forces driving biotechnology development in forestry.


The Forest Genetic Resources Working Papers report on issues and activities related to the conservation, sustainable use and management of forest tree genetic diversity. The purpose of these papers is to provide early information on on-going developments in the field, and to stimulate discussion.

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. As a Working Paper, this document does not necessarily reflect the views of FAO.

Quantitative information has been compiled according to sources, methodologies and protocols identified and selected by the authors. For standardized methodologies and assessments on forest resources, please refer to FAO, 2005. State of the World’s Forests 2005; and to FAO, 2001. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 (FRA 2000). FAO Forestry Paper No 140 .

Biotechnology techniques and products in use or in the pipeline in developing countries and countries with economies in transition described in this Working Paper have been added to the searchable database FAO-BioDeC where they can be consulted for more details ( Information can also be found on the FAO website (, in particular regarding biotechnology ( and forest genetic resources (


The contribution of organizations, companies and individuals who provided inputs is acknowledged. Special thanks are due to Steven H. Strauss, Oregon State University, USA; Levis W. Handley, Biotechnology Regulatory Services, USA; and Alvin Yanchuk, Ministry of Forestry, British Columbia, Canada, for reviewing the manuscript.

Individual studies presented in the paper have been undertaken with the financial support of the FAO Interdepartmental Working Group on Biotechnology and the FAO-Netherlands Partnership Programme on Agro-Biodiversity.


Comments and feedback are welcome.

For further information please contact:
Pierre Sigaud, Forestry Officer (Forest Genetic Resources)
Forest Resources Division, Forestry Department
FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome, Italy
Fax: + 39 06 570 55 137

For quotation:
FAO, 2004. Preliminary review of biotechnology in forestry, including genetic modification. Forest Genetic Resources Working Paper FGR/59E. Forest Resources Development Service, Forest Resources Division. Rome, Italy.

Table of Contents

List of figures

List of tables

Nicholas Wheeler
Executive summary

Nicholas Wheeler – Washington State, USA
1. Synthesis: a snapshot of the global status and trends in forest biotechnology

2. Appendixes

Gilles Chaix & Olivier Monteuuis – CIRAD Forestry Department, Montpellier, France
2.1 Biotechnology in the forestry sector

Christian Walter and Sean KillerbyNew Zealand Forest Research Institute Ltd, Rotorua, New Zealand
2.2 A global study on the state of forest tree genetic modification

Huoran Wang - Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing
2.3 The state of genetically modified forest trees in China

Yousry A. El-Kassaby - University of British Columbia, Canada
2.4 Anticipated contribution to and scale of impact of biotechnology in forestry

2.5 Acronyms

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