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Can GMO trees save our forests?

In late May, forest biologists, geneticists, and forestry industry officials from across the world gathered at the Marriott Renaissance Hotel in Asheville, North Carolina to discuss ongoing research in tree genetics. One of the key sessions at the weeklong “Tree Biotechnology 2013 Conference” dealt with the “different aspects of the use of transgenics, including gains in productivity, gene flow, and societal acceptance.” The last point, it turned out, would be the attendees’ biggest hurdle.

As convention participants sat in the four-star hotel’s conference rooms discussing how genetically engineered (GE) trees could meet the growing demand for “sustainable, renewable sources of biomass, in the face of climate change,” several hundred demonstrators gathered on the streets outside in one of the largest protests ever organized against genetically engineered trees. Anne Petermann, coordinator of the “Campaign to STOP GE Trees,” says their message to the tree biotech industry and its investors was simple: Expect resistance.

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