The Brazilian National Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio) approved the commercial use of the yield enhanced eucalyptus developed by FuturaGene, the leading Israeli agricultural biotech. Field experiments conducted since 2006 at various locations in Brazil have demonstrated an approximate 20% increase in yield compared to its equivalent conventional variety.
This is the first genetically modified (GM) eucalyptus event to be approved worldwide and represents the most significant productivity milestone for the renewable plantation forest industry since the adoption of clonal technology in the early 1990’s. This approval also represents the beginning of a new era for sustainable forest management by enabling the production of more fiber, using fewer resources. Brazil is the first country to complete the development cycle of such a technology.
The yield increase provided by the GM eucalyptus will provide economic, environmental and social benefits. The economic benefits include increased competitiveness for the Brazilian forestry sector. The main environmental benefits derived from using less land to produce more fiber will include lowered carbon emission through the reduction of distance between the forests and the mills, reduced use of chemical inputs and greater availability of land for other purposes, such as conservation and food production.
For Dr. Stanley Hirsch, FuturaGene CEO, the approval of this technology represents a breakthrough for the forestry industry: “Producing more wood without increasing the use of natural resources is a constant challenge for all industry players. We are very proud to have developed an innovative technology that is capable of potentiating forestry industry competitiveness while benefitting society as a whole”.
The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Suzano Pulp and Paper focused on plant genetic research and development for the global forestry, biopower and biofuel markets. FuturaGene’s yield-enhanced eucalyptus has been under development since 2001 and has undergone extensive biosafety assessment prior to submission for commercial approval.
However, as many other green biotech companies, FuturaGene is not safe from agrarian movements and environmental organizations. Last month a group of people from Landless Workers’ Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra, in Portuguese) entered at a cellulose plant belonging to the company in the state of São Paulo and destroyed thousands of GM eucalyptus sprouts grown in a greenhouse. FuturaGene stated that losses were quite substantial and years of technological development were lost.
According to Dr. Hirsch, the company has several additional products at different stages of development in its pipeline. “This approval by CTNBio is an incentive for us to continue seeking innovative technological solutions that contribute for meeting the ever growing global demand for wood in a sustainable manner.”
Partners of Suzano’s outgrowers program, including small landholders, who have already benefited from the company´s best seedlings for years, will have access to the technology under terms of current contracts, which do not involve the payment of royalties. Subsequent to the approval, Suzano and FuturaGene will expand the field testing of the yield-enhanced eucalyptus in a graded and responsible manner.