In March 2023, FSC’s Board decided to discontinue the FSC Genetic Engineering Learning Process. The bias in favour of GE trees was clearly revealed by the fact that FSC’s “expert” panel for the learning process included Professor Steven Strauss of Oregon State University. Strauss has spent his career researching and promoting genetically engineered trees, and has has actively lobbied for FSC’s ban on commercial planting of GE trees by FSC-certified companies to be lifted.
In 2022, the Campaign to Stop GE Trees wrote a Letter of Protest calling on FSC “to reaffirm its commitment to FSC’s current policy that prohibits the use of genetically engineered trees.”
Here is FSC’s announcement that the GE trees learning process has been stopped:
FSC Genetic Engineering Learning Process will not go ahead
March 31, 2023, Forest Stewardship Council press release
In February 2022 the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) announced the start of a process to discuss GE (Genetic Engineering) outside of FSC certified area. The FSC International Board appointed a Panel of Experts to provide advice on how a GE Learning Process could help FSC gain sufficient and trusted knowledge on developments in genetic engineering in forestry.
After a planned review of the GE Learning Process during their Board Meeting in March 2023, the FSC Board of Directors has decided to discontinue the learning process.
The decision considered the different views in FSC’s membership around the learning process, the division this bring to FSC as well as the potential risk to FSC’s mission and reputation. The decision was made by consensus, with two board members expressing reservations about the process.
The Board affirmed that (apart from literature reviews, desk studies and research allowed by the current Policy for Association) no investigations of genetically modified trees would be undertaken or called for by FSC without first ensuring broad membership engagement and agreement.
In making this decision, the board stressed the importance of FSC using its strength in co-creation to discuss and stay updated with the latest developments in science, technology and knowledge that improves responsible forest management, meeting social, economic, and environmental values through multiple pathways.
The Board will discuss how to move forward with this discussion at their next Board Meeting in August 2023.