By Joan Conrow
Fifteen scientists published a letter in Science Magazine today calling on international forest certification programs to review and modify policies that exclude genetically engineered or gene-edited trees.
Their call reflects the sentiments of some 1,000 signatories from across the globe who signed a recent petition managed by the Alliance for Science.
The statement is important because more than 500 million hectares — some 13 percent of the world’s forest — are affected by the largest certification systems, which are intended to reassure consumers that the wood they buy is sustainably sourced. The scientists argue that genetically engineered (GE) trees can make significant contributions to sustainable forest management — especially now that forests face mounting stresses posed by invasive pests and climate change.
“To face the challenges of forest health, carbon sequestration, and maintenance of other ecological services, we must use all available tools,” they wrote. “GE tree research should be allowed immediately on certified land, and GE trees proven by research to provide value should eventually be allowed in certified forests.”
In making their call, the scientists noted the “great promise” shown by field trials of trees with traits related to sustainability, such as productivity, wood quality, pest and stress resistance, protection of endangered species and reproductive control. They also pointed out that there are no hazards unique to GE methods compared with conventional breeding methods.
By Scott Gibson
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and four environmental advocacy groups in the Pacific Northwest have launched a promotional campaign for forest practices and wood products that help lower carbon emissions.
The Climate-Smart Wood Group says it wants to help builders, architects, and other buyers understand the difference between wood products on the market and make it easier to locate lumber that meets sustainable forestry standards.
In a statement laying out its goals, the group said that growing interest in mass-timber construction underscores the need to choose wood products carefully. Promoters often cite timber as a less carbon-intensive building product than concrete and steel, the group notes, but that’s not necessarily the case.
“All wood is not the same,” the statement says. “Forest management affects carbon storage, human communities, water, and habitat. Climate-smart forestry—which relies on actions such as selective harvesting, longer rotation lengths, and tight restrictions on hazardous chemicals—can store more carbon than commonly practiced forestry.”
Although not without its critics, the FSC manages an international certification program for lumber. In order to qualify and win the right to mark wood with the FSC stamp, forestry companies have to meet certain FSC tests that are designed to minimize damage to the environment and communities where the wood is harvested.
Other groups involved in the Climate-Smart program are Ecotrust, Sustainable Northwest, the Northwest Natural Resource Group, and the Washington Environmental Council. These organizations all are in the Pacific Northwest.
The group notes that in the pulp and paper industry, large companies have influenced forest management and supply chains through their purchasing policies. But the construction sector is not as organized, with many smaller players working independently. The Climate-Smart Wood Group is a way to bring these players together, its opening statement said.
UPM and the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) announce a global strategic partnership to develop solutions for advancing the uptake of FSC in the market. UPM and FSC signed the partnership agreement on the 16th of May 2017 during the FSC international members meeting in Karkkila, Finland. The partnership aims at delivering benefits to forest owners through FSC certification and to increase the FSC-certified wood supply.
UPM has actively cooperated with FSC both on international and national level for several years. The company has been involved in developing the FSC certification in order to enhance its applicability to the fragmented private forest ownership in Finland. This work will be strengthened through the newly agreed partnership.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) today announced its decision to immediately disassociate from the Austrian timber giant Holzindustrie Schweighofer (Schweighofer), one of its largest members, due to the company’s persistent and indiscriminate sourcing of illegal timber in Romania. The decision follows a year-long investigation by an FSC Expert Panel, which concluded that Schweighofer had created a business “culture” favoring cheap wood over legal wood in its Romanian sourcing.
By Mike Gaworecki
A study published in the journal Science Advances this month found that, between 2000 and 2013, the global area of intact forest landscape declined by 7.2 percent, a reduction of 919,000 square kilometers, or a little over 227 million acres.
Intact forest landscapes (IFLs) are areas of natural land cover that are large and undisturbed enough to retain all their native plant and animal communities — defined at 500 square kilometers. For an IFL to be considered “lost,” its vegetation needs to be degraded to an extent at which it can no longer support its original levels of biodiversity.
Among the study’s other findings, one in particular was quite surprising: Certification of logging concessions, which aims to ensure sustainable forest management practices, had a “negligible” impact on slowing the fragmentation of IFLs in the Congo Basin, home to the world’s second-largest rainforest as well as high levels of biodiversity, including more than 600 tree species and 10,000 animal species.
The EU said last week that Indonesia is the first country to qualify for the licenses. It will mean that traders of goods such as wooden furniture, plywood and paper that earn the certification will find it easier to do business with Europe.
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Inc. announced that the SFI 2015-2019 Forest Management Standard has again met the rigorous third-party assessment of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). This is SFI’s fourth PEFC assessment. The SFI Program was first endorsed in 2005. PEFC is an umbrella organization that endorses national forest certification systems developed collaboratively by diverse stakeholders, tailored to local priorities and conditions.