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Call for CBD Moratorium on GE Trees

Groups Call for UN CBD Moratorium on GE Trees

3 June 2005

Participants at Montreal Meetings of Cartageña Protocol on Biosafety Call for CBD Moratorium on Genetically Engineered Trees

Montreal, QC, Canada—Today at a press conference on genetically engineered trees held during the Second meeting of the Parties to the Cartageña Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP 2), participants called for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to enact a moratorium on the release of genetically engineered trees into the environment, including the removal of any outdoor test plots currently in existence.

“When speaking about biosafety, we must look at the issue of genetically engineered trees and potential contamination of native forests,” stated Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher, Director of EcoNexus, participating in the COP-MOP 2 as a representative of the German Federation of Scientists. She continued, “If you wanted to design a means to scatter a gene far and wide throughout the environment, the best way to do it would be to put it in trees, which have lots of wild relatives and pollen that travels for hundreds, if not thousands of kilometers. Increasingly scientists agree that risk assessment should not focus on the likelihood of a GE tree gene escaping, but on the impact it will have when it escapes.”

“We must have a moratorium on the release of GE trees into the environment,” stated Hannu Hyvönen, of the Peoples Forest Forum. “The dangers of GE trees contaminating native forests with traits like insect resistance or reduced lignin are certain to cause terrible problems in our native forests,” he added.

Countries including China, Chile, Brazil and the U.S. are rapidly advancing the commercialization of genetically engineered tree technology despite the inherent uncertainties and high risks. China has already planted more than one million trees throughout ten provinces. Brazil and Chile both would like to have commercial plantations by 2006. The recent mapping of the DNA of the poplar tree in the U.S. is helping more rapidly advance some aspects of commercialization.

“Industry would have us believe that GE trees are the answer to all of our problems, but the fact is, the commercial application of GE trees will cause an intensification of the problems we are already seeing from industrial tree plantations,” stated Anne Petermann, co-Director of Global Justice Ecology Project. She went on to say, “Global warming will be exacerbated, indigenous and rural communities poisoned or forced off their lands, and native forest ecosystems irrevocably damaged. All so the timber industry can claim higher profit margins. A moratorium is a good first step. Global Justice Ecology Project and the STOP GE Trees Campaign, however, believe that GE trees must be banned globally.”

This is a joint press release from Global Justice Ecology Project, Peoples Forest Forum, EcoNexus and the STOP GE Trees Campaign, which represents many hundred organizations.

ENDS

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