CORVALLIS - A conference set to begin next week will address some of the more difficult social, scientific and ethical issues relating to forest biotechnology, a science that holds considerable promise to produce timber and fiber but has also been the source of criticism and even terrorist attack.

The event on July 22-27 is a professional meeting that will involve both proponents and critics of this emerging science, including biotechnology researchers from industry and academia, policy experts, economists, ethicists, agency regulators, and representatives of environmental groups. Following extensive discussion, the experts will attempt to develop a plan of action for the future.

"We're bringing together a very knowledgeable and diverse group of experts from around the world to discuss a topic of obvious public importance," said Steven Strauss, a professor of forest science at Oregon State University and international expert in the use of biotechnology in forestry. Strauss is co-organizer of these meetings with H.D. "Toby" Bradshaw of the University of Washington.

"There are complex issues of science, ethics, public policy, economics and ecology that will all be analyzed at length," Strauss said. "Hopefully we can develop a working consensus about how to proceed with forest biotechnology in a responsible way that addresses ecological and social concerns."

The meetings of professionals in this field will be held at the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Wash., in the Columbia River gorge. Work will begin with an "International Symposium on Ecological and Societal Aspects of Transgenic Forest Plantations." That symposium will be a satellite meeting held concurrently with the conference "Tree Biotechnology in the New Millennium," sponsored by the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations, which will cover new scientific developments.

Speakers at the meetings include some of the most recognized and prominent experts working in forestry, social science and biotechnology. Information about registration, fees, and attendance at these meetings can be obtained on the web.