Brussels, 24 Jun 2004
Finland's only field study on genetically modified (GM) trees in Punkaharju in the eastern part of the country has been attacked and destroyed.
The 400 GM birch trees were chopped down or torn up by their roots. This has obliterated the nation's only research into the environmental impact of genetic modification on forests, deplored officials.
'The research investigated the possible environmental effects of doing field studies using genetically modified materials. It would have been extremely important to find out about these issues,' said Juhani Haggman, head of the Punkaharju site.
'We lack research on how genes work,' Mr Haggman added. 'We are talking about several hundreds of thousands of euro in losses. The highest estimates that have been aired have been close to a million euro. Then there's the value the research results we would have had,' said Mr Haggman.
Both the Finnish bioindustry and the forest industry have been keen to conduct research on genetically engineered trees, hoping genetic modification would reduce paper-making costs and improve products by producing trees with appropriate traits. The research had been seeking methods to maintain a functioning transgene to begin the production of cloned and sterile 'ge-trees'.
It is believed, however, that some environmental groups and anti-GM protesters feared GM trees might permanently contaminate food crops and wild species.
This was the other issue the research was investigating.