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Ban on GE Trees Gains Momentum

Ban on GE Trees Gains Momentum: Seen as Threat to Sustainability

21 Feb 08


International support for a ban on GE trees is growing, throwing further doubt on claimed benefits used to justify field-trials in New Zealand.

Over 130 organisations from around the world, including New Zealand organisations and a Member of Parliament, have sent an open letter to the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical andTechnological Advice, meeting in Rome, expressing their deep concern about genetic engineering of trees.

But the global concern signals the fact that GE Trees contradict calls by the Prime Minister Helen Clark to position New Zealand as sustainable, and as such pose a threat to our reputation internationally.

Already organisations like the Forest Stewardship Council specifically exclude GE timber from certification. Such certification of producers meeting basic environmental standards is increasingly important for millions of consumers using their spending power to respond to deforrestation and climate change.

"This is a wake-up call that GE trees are not only unlikely to be a magic-bullet, but are in fact a poison chalice in terms of promoting New Zealand as a source of clean and sustainably-produced products," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ (in food and environment).

The concerns raised in the open letter include the fact that the genetic manipulation being undertaken is aimed at consolidating and further expanding a model of monoculture plantations that has already caused serious social and environmental impacts in many countries.

The letter provides examples of how current research would impact on the environment, given that trees are being genetically manipulated for:
- faster tree growth, which would “further aggravate the proven impacts on water resources”, and mean even greater consumption of water by tree plantations.

- trees with insecticide properties to make them resistant to insects, that could "result in the death of a large number of other insect species, with consequent impacts on local fauna’s food chains”.
- resistance to herbicides, which “would lead to even more serious social and environmental impacts, including the destruction of local flora and impacts on human health.”
- higher cellulose content that “would mean reducing the amount of lignin, the component that provides trees with structural strength, thus making them more susceptible to serious damage during wind storms.”

Trials of GE trees already underway in New Zealand were the subject of a recent report by MAF into breaches of containment and failures in compliance with biosecurity laws.

The breaches included incursions by rabbits that MAF played down as a some sort of a PR stunt.

The signatories to the open letter remind country delegates that “the last Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-8) adopted decision VIII/19”, which “recommends Parties to take a precautionary approach when addressing the issue of genetically modified trees” and urge them to definitely ban GE trees -including fields trials – because of the serious risks they pose to the Planet’s biological diversity.

ENDS

References: The signatories and open letter:

Open letter to all members of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA)

February, 2008

The undersigned, members of organizations from countries where research on the genetic modification of trees is being carried out, (or has in recent years), would like to express in this letter some of the reasons of our deep concern.

First of all, our concern is based on the fact that the genetic manipulation being undertaken is aimed at consolidating and further expanding a model of monoculture tree plantations that has already proven to result in serious social and environmental impacts in many of our countries.

In addition, the use of transgenic trees will further aggravate the proven impacts on water resources, since one of the traits that researchers are attempting to introduce is faster growth, which would mean even greater consumption of water by tree plantations.

At the same time, research is being undertaken to introduce genes that will make the trees more resistant to cold temperatures, for the purpose of planting them in colder regions and at higher altitudes in the mountains. This would lead to social and environmental impacts in areas that until now have not been affected by the impacts of current tree monocultures.

Research is also underway to develop trees with insecticide properties, in order to make them resistant to insects like the pine shoot moth (Ryacionia buoliana). This could result in the death of a large number of other insect species, with consequent impacts on local fauna’s food chains and perhaps even on the pollinization of native flora species that depend on those insects.

Research is also being undertaken to introduce genes that would increase the trees’ resistance to the herbicide glyphosate, which would lead to even more serious social and environmental impacts, including the destruction of local flora and impacts on human health.

Additionally, research is being carried out to develop eucalyptus trees with a higher cellulose content for the production of cellulose for paper and for the production of ethanol. This would mean reducing the amount of lignin, the component that provides trees with structural strength, thus making them more susceptible to suffering -as well as causing- serious damage during wind storms.

It is important to note that the last Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-8) adopted decision VIII/19 (Forest biological diversity: implementation of the programme of work), which “recommends Parties to take a precautionary approach when addressing the issue of genetically modified trees."

This decision is founded on COP-8’s recognition of “the uncertainties related to the potential environmental and socio-economic impacts, including long-term and transboundary impacts, of genetically modified trees on global forest biological diversity, as well as on the livelihoods of indigenous and local communities, and given the absence of reliable data and of capacity in some countries to undertake risk assessments and to evaluate those potential impacts."

We therefore wish to call upon you to recommend to the Convention on Biodiversity Convention to definitely ban GE trees -including fields trials – because of the serious risks they pose on the Planet’s biological diversity.

21st Paradigm, USA
A SEED Europe, The Netherlands
Acción Ecológica, Ecuador
AG Wald der Foum Umwelt und Entwicklung, Germany
Agenda 21 Anil&Azul - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Agenda Regional de La Araucanía, Chile
Agrupación ambientalista Koyam Newen, Chile
Agrupación de jóvenes profesionales mapuche
Konapewman, Chile
Alianza por una Mejor Calidad de Vida (RAP-Chile), Chile
Amigos de la Tierra España – Friends of the Earth Spain,
Spain
AOPA - Associação para o Desenvolvimento da
Agroecologia, Brazil
Argonautas Ambientalistas da Amazônia, Brazil
AS-PTA Assessoria e Serviços a Projetos em Agricultura
Alternativa, Brazil
Associação de Programas em Tecnologias Alternativas-
APTA, Brazil
ASSOCIAÇÃO GAÚCHA DE PROTEÇÃO AO AMBIENTE
NATURAL - AGAPAN, Brazil
B.C. Food Systems Network, Canada
Bergwaldprojekt, Germany
Biofuelwatch, United Kingdom
BUND - Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz in Deutschland
/ Friends of the Earth Germany
CAA - Centro de Agricultura Alternativa, Brazil
Californians for GE-Free Agriculture, USA
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), Canada
Caney Fork Headwaters Association, USA
Carbon Trade Watch, International
CAxTIERRA (Comisión de Apoyo X Tierra), Uruguay
Centro de Agricultura Alternativa do Norte de Minas - CAA
NM, Brazil
Centro de Defesa dos Direitos Humanos – CDDH, Brazil
Centro de Estudos Ambientais (CEA), Brazil
CENTRO ECOLOGICO BORDE RIO, Chile
Centro Federal de Educação Tecnológica de Rio Pomba
(CEFET-Rio Pomba), Brazil
CLOC (Coordinadoria LatinoAmericana de las
Organizaciones del Campo), Republica Dominicana
Coalition for Safe Food, Powell River, British Columbia,
Canada
COATI - Centro de Orientação Ambiental Terra Integrada -
Jundiaí, Brazil
CODEFF / Amigos de la Tierra, Chile
2
Comissão Pastoral da Terra - Diocese Itabuna/Bahia,
Brazil
Coorporación Unión Araucana "XAPELEAI TAIÑ KIMVN",
Padre Las Casas, Chile
Crescente Fértil, Brazil
Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice, USA
Development Fund, Norway
Dogwood alliance, USA
Down to Earth - the International Campaign for Ecological
Justice in IndonesiaUnited Kingdom
Ecodevelop - Publikation und Dienstleistung für ökosoziale
Entwicklung, Germany
Ecologistas en Acción, Madrid, Spain
ESPLAR - CENTRO DE PESQUISA E ASSESSORIA,
Brazil
ETC Group, Canada
Fair-Fish, Switzerland
Federação de Órgãos Para Assistência Social e
Educacional - FASE/ES, Brazil
Federation of Alberta Naturalists, Canada
FERN, United Kingdom
FoE Australia
FoE Czech Republic
Forest Caucus Steering Committee of the Canadian
Environmental Network, Canada
Forest Peoples Programme, United Kingdom
Fórum Carajás, Brazil
Fórum de Mulheres do Espírito Santo, Brazil
Fórum em Defesa da Zona Costeira do Ceará, Brazil
Forum Ökologie & Papier, Germany
Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern
Ireland), United Kingdom
Friends of the Earth Australia
Friends of the Earth Europe
Fundação Vitória Amazônica, Brazil
Fundacion Sociedades Sustentables de Chile, Chile
Gaia Foundation, International
GE Free New Zealand, Aotearoa/New Zealand
GEEMA - Grupo de Estudos em Educação e Meio
Ambiente, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
GENANET - focal point gender, environment, sustainabilty,
Germany
Gene ethical Network, Germany
Gesellschaft für Ökolgische Forschung, Munich, Germany
Global Forest Coalition, International
Global Justice Ecology Project, International
GM Freeze, United Kingdom
GM-Free Dorset Campaign, United Kingdom
Green Press Initiative, USA
Greenpeace, International
Grupo Ambientalista da Bahia - Gambá, Brazil
Grupo Mamangava, Brazil
GT Ambiente / AGB-Rio e AGB-Niteroi, Brazil
IDESA (Instituto de Desenvolvimento Social e Ambiental),
Brazil
Indiana Forest Alliance, USA
Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), USA/Canada
Institute for Responsible Technology, USA
Institute for Social Ecology, USA
Instituto Ambiental Viramundo - Ceará, Brazil
Instituto para o Desenvolvimento Ambiental - IDA, Brazil
International Tribal Association, USA
Kentucky Heartwood, USA
Latin American Network Against Monoculture Tree
Plantations, International
Les Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth France), France
Mapuexpress informativo digital mapuche, Chile
MIRA-SERRA, Brazil
Movimiento de los Trabajadores Rurales sin Tierra de
Brasil - MST, Brazil
Muslim Aid, United Kingdom
Nandor Tanczos, Member of Parliament, Green Party,
Aotearoa/New Zealand
NEADIst - Núcleo de Educação Ambiental Continuada e à
Distância, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Network for a free GE LAtin America, International
Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility,
United Church of Christ, USA
Nguallen Pelu Mapu / protectores de la tierra, Chile
Northern Heritage Association, Finland
Northwest Resistance Against Genetic Engineering, USA
Northwoods Wilderness Recovery, USA
OroVerde - Tropical Forest Foundation, Germany
Pacific Indigenous Peoples Environment Coalition
(PIPEC), Aotearoa/New Zealand
Plataforma Transgenicos Fora (Portuguese GM-Free
Coalition), Portugal
Prairie Red Fife Organic Growers Cooperative Ltd.,
Canada
Prodema - UFC, Brazil
RAE - Rede de Educação Ambiental Escolar, Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil
Rainforest Relief, USA
Red por una América Latina Libre de Transgénicos,
Ecuador
Rede Ambiental do Piauà - REAPI, Brazil
Rede de Educadores Ambientais da Baixada de
Jacarepaguá, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rede de Integração Verde, Brazil
Rettet den Regenwald, Germany
Rising Tide North America, USA
Robin Wood, Germany
Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment (SAFE)USA
Sierra Club, USA
Sindicato dos Trabalhadores de Rio Pardo de Minas - MG,
Brazil
Sociedade Angrense de Proteção Ecológica, Brazil
Society for a Genetically Engineered British Columbia,
Canada
Soil Association, USA
Stop GE Trees Campaign, International
Terra de Directos, Brazil
UITA - Unión Internacional de Trabajadores de la
Alimentación y la Agricultura, International
Union of Ecoforestry in Finland
Union paysanne, Québec, Canada
UNORCA - Unión nacional de organizaciones regionales
campesinas autónomas, Mexico
Via Campesina Brazil
Vía Campesina Caribe
Via Campesina Internacional/América del sur
Washington Biotechnology Action Council, USA
Wild Virginia, USA
Women's Environmental Network, United Kingdom
World Development Movement, United Kingdom
World Rainforest Movement, International
Worldforests, Scotland
Worldview, USA
Xarxa de l'Observatori del Deute en la Globalització,
Cataluña, Estado español

Full letter and signatories available at:
http://www.wrm.org.uy/actors/BDC/SBSTTA13/GE_Trees_Campaign.html


ENDS

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