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The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and GE trees



November 17, 2021 – FSC proposal to engage in GE tree field testing activities is a threat to forests and FSC: “The proposal to lead a learning project on GE trees that would involve FSC oversight over field trials is a shocking development in the history of FSC. If embarking on this “learning project on genetic engineering outside certified areas” and endorsing expanded field testing, FSC would not just be opening the door globally to future commercial growing of GE trees but actually piloting this outcome.”From the November 17, 2021 joint letter to the FSC from by the Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN), Argentina; Huni Kui Peoples’ Federation of Acre, Brazil; Indigenous Environmental Network; Ecoropa; Global Forest Coalition; Biofuelwatch; Global Justice Ecology Project; and the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.


Forest Stewardship Council is consulting on policy changes to formalize genetically modified (GM or genetically engineered) tree research as an “acceptable activity” – Deadline: Dec 3, 2021.

The FSC “Policy of Association” defines six “unacceptable activities” that FSC associated organizations and their corporate groups need to avoid in both certified and non-certified operations. One of these unacceptable activities is the “introduction of genetically modified organisms in forestry operations.” However, the proposed draft (V3 Draft 4) would change this text to “introduction or use of genetically modified trees for purposes other than research (which can include field trials), such as for commercial purposes”

This change would formally allow for GM tree research by FSC associated organizations. It would also change the prohibition from GMOs, to a GM trees. There is an FSC consultation on this and other questions that ends December 3. Non-FSC members can participate. Visit to create a profile online. You will then be provided with the consultation documents in English and Spanish.

(The FSC definition of genetic modification is also under revision but this question is not discussed in the consultation.)


FSC’s rules on use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

FSC Principles & Criteria (FSC-STD-01-001 v4-0): FSC’s Principles and Criteria are very clear on the issue of GMOs, excluding their use within the boundaries of FSC-certified forestry operations. The current version 4-0 states unequivocally that “use of genetically modified organisms shall be prohibited”. Equal considerations apply to the approved version 5-0 which is supposed to take effect from 2016 onwards wherein criterion 10.4 states: “The Organization shall not use genetically modified organisms in the Management Unit.”

FSC Policy “FSC Interpretation on GMOs” (FSC-POL-30-602): The FSC Policy on GMOs clarifies that research into GMOs must not take place in FSC certified forests. Relevant field trials, however, are permissible by FSC-certified operations if they are conducted in non-certified areas.

FSC Policy for Association (FSC-POL-01-004): FSC’s Policy for Association states that, “FSC will only allow its association with organizations that are not directly or indirectly involved in…. e) Introduction of genetically modified organisms in forestry operations.” Introduction is to be understood here as commercial deployment and is considered unacceptable not only by a certified organization but also by any majority ownership related parent or subsidiary company.

In summary, FSC certified organizations may only conduct research into GMOs but must not use them in any form commercially, whether within or outside the boundaries of their certified management units.

FSC Consultation Documents:

  1. FSC Policy for Association
  2. Procedure for Disclosure Requirements for Association with FSC
  3. Crosswalk
  4. Frequently Asked Questions re: FSC Policy for Association
  5. Summary of consultation questionnaire
  6. Consultation report (May/June 2021)

Documentos de consulta en español: