Roger A. Sedjo
Resources for the Future

Wood has great potential as a bioenergy source, both as a feedstock for liquid biofuels for the transport sector and also as biomass, a direct source of energy that can be used to produce electric power. Trees, however, are generally slow growing, and some species that do grow quickly are not widely adapted, hence the interest in genetically engineered (GE) trees. In many cases, traditional breeding may achieve comparable results, and the developer must assess which is more efficient and less costly—pursuing a traditional approach or achieving deregulation of a GE product. The traditional and transgenic approaches are not perfect substitutes, however: genetic engineering can effect transformations not possible through traditional breeding. This article examines the regulatory process and the effects on development and commercialization of regulatory restrictions and recent court decisions. It discusses recent US legal cases, which—although not directly involving transgenic trees—have implications for tree deregulation and the pace of commercialization.

Key words: Bioenergy, eucalyptus, genetic engineering, litigation, regulation, renewable energy, transgenic trees.