Genetic Modification


Our research programme

Scion has been conducting genetically modified tree research since 1992. This research involved non-native, economically important forestry species both in the laboratory and in field trials. From 1996 to 1999 Scion undertook field trials with genetically modified radiata pine to establish that the science could be conducted in accordance with all regulatory, risk management and environmental standards.

In 1996 the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) was established, and in 2000 ERMA granted Scion approval for field trials for certain experiments over a 20-year period, starting in 2003. The species involved are radiata pine and spruce.

The experiments to date have been purely to assess environmental safety. These experiments were completed in June 2008 with the required destruction of the trees and subsequent publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals. These experiments found no evidence for environmental impacts of any kind resulting from genetic modification. The results showed “no evidence of the modified genes having transferred to other organisms; no evidence of detrimental impact on insect diversity by the genetically modified pines; no evidence of impacts on the micro-organism populations that live in close association with the pine roots”, NZ Herald 2 May 2008. See published papers by Scion scientists.

Further experiments on genetic modification in the current field trial are on-going.
In December 2010, ERMA (now the Environmental Protection Authority) approved an application from Scion to further study genetic modification of forestry species on a 4-hectare containment site in Rotorua. The research will field test radiata pine with genetic modifications for genes for commercially important traits such as tree growth and wood quality. The research will consist of experiments run over 25 years, although individual trees will be destroyed once, or before, they reach reproductive age (at approximately 8 years).

More information

The main focus of the panui (booklet) entitled 'Te Maramatanga o Te Tipuranga' is to inform hapu and iwi of Forest Research’s mahi (work) on the results of the field trial of genetically modified Pine and Spruce trees.

Te Maramatanga o Te Tipuranga, literally translated, means ‘understanding’ (Maramatanga) of ‘growth’ (Tipuranga). The concept applies to the trees themselves, as well as the learning for both Maori and for Forest Research scientists.