Mouvement mondial pour les forêts tropicales

Canada – WRM information sheet on GE tree research

Disponible uniquement en anglais. 

WRM information sheets on GE tree research

First posted: 1 August 2008
Updated: 1 October 2008 (including information provided by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network)
Updated:  August 2014 (including information provided by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network)

Tree species being engineered:

  • Poplar (1)

Aim of genetic manipulation (1,2):

  • The field trials are being carried out on two or three specific traits in each trial, including the general aim of contributing to the genetic research but also on specific traits like herbicide tolerance, modified secondary metabolites, selectable marker, fungal resistance, modified carbohydrate content and more digestible lignin.

Past research:

  • The first field trial was conducted in 1997 (poplar).
  • Alberta Pacific Forest Industries carried out a field trial of glyphosate-resistant poplars in 1998 in Alberta. Ended in 2002. (3).
  • Past research has involved poplar species, White Spruce (Picea glauca) and Black Spruce (Picea mariana). Genetic engineering was aimed at herbicide resistance (poplar), resistance to spruce budworm (White Spruce) and genetic research with use of marker genes (Black Spruce). The spruce trees were cut down in 2006. (4)
  • Since 2011, field trial numbers increased to 11 from 2.

Those carrying out the research:

  • Laurentian Forestry Centre of the Canadian Forest Service under Natural Resources Canada, Government of Canada (field trials) (5)
  • Queen’s University, Ontario (field trials)
  • The University of British Columbia, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Michigan State University, funded by Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (greenhouse trials). (2)

Those who provide support to research:

  • Government of Canada (4, 6)
  • Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. (2)

Regulatory framework for research and field trials:

  • The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulates approval to field test and commercially release genetically engineered trees under the Plants with Novel Traits Guidelines through the Seeds Act. This agency is also responsible for regularly inspecting each field trial to ensure that terms and conditions are followed. (3)

Field trials:

  •  According to official information from the Canadian government, in 2013 (2012 and 2011) 11 different field trials with poplar were taking place, a significant increase compared with research from 1997-2010. Those carrying out the trials are:
  • Laurentian Forestry Centre (government research station plot at woods near Val Cartier, Quebec) has open-air trials of a genetically engineered poplar. (7)
  • Queen’s University has one open-air trial of a GE poplar, location is unknown. (1)

Organizations opposing GE trees:

ACEF de Québec
ACT for the Earth
Amies de la Terre de l’Estrie
Amies de la Terre de Québec
British Columbia Food Systems Network
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network
Communications, Energy & Paperworkers Union of Canada
Comité Uni-verts du Cégep de Gaspé
Conseil régional de l’environnement-Montréal
Council of Canadians
Dogwood Initiative
Earth Action, PEI
Earthroots, Ontario
Ecocert Canada
Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario
Ecology Action Centre, Nova Scotia
ECOTERRA North America
Environmental Coalition of PEI (ECO PEI)
Environment North
ETC Group
Falls Brook Centre
Federation of Alberta Naturalists
Forest Caucus of the Canadian Environmental Network
Friends of the Earth Canada
Friends of the Oldman River
GENEaction, Toronto
Greenpeace Canada
Groupe de Recherche d’intérêt Public de l’UQAM
Groupe Solidarité Justice SNJM du Québec
Indigenous Network on Economics and Trade
L’Association Manger Santé Bio
Le Poids vert de Rimouski-Neigette, Quebec
Maison des femmes de Rimouski, Quebec
National Aboriginal Forestry Association
National Farmers Union of Canada
Nature Québec
Nature Saskatchewan
Oakvillegreen Conservation Association
Option consommateurs
Peaceful Parks Coalition
Polaris Institute
Réseau québécois des groupes écologistes
Sierra Club of Canada
Sierra Youth Coalition
SOS Gaia
Society for a GE Free BC
Under The Sleeping Buffalo (UTSB) Research, Alberta
Union of Ontario Indians
Union Paysanne, Quebec
USC Canada
West Kootenay EcoSociety, BC

Relevant opposition web pages:


  1. Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Plants with Novel Traits, Approved confined field trials
  2. G. Wilkerson, S. D. Mansfield, F. Lu, S. Withers, J.-Y. Park, S. D. Karlen, E. Gonzales-Vigil, D. Padmakshan, F. Unda, J. Rencoret, and J. Ralph.Monolignol Ferulate Transferase Introduces Chemically Labile Linkages into the Lignin BackboneScience, 4 April 2014: 90-93 DOI: 10.1126/science.1250161