Thursday, May 30. Source: Global Justice Ecology Project
Asheville, NC – Three demonstrators were brutally arrested today at the controversial Tree Biotechnology 2013 conference. They attempted to use GMO caution tape to wrap a bus full of conference participants headed for an upscale dinner at the Biltmore Estate. Dozens more groaning zombie “franken-tree” protesters banged pots and pans and chanted anti-genetically engineered tree slogans.
Will Bennington, a campaigner with Global Justice Ecology Project and the Campaign to STOP GE Trees, was one of those arrested for blockading the buses. Bennington said, “We’re blocking the buses because these conference attendees are on their way to dinner at the Biltmore Estate. Built by the Vanderbilts, the Biltmore is a symbol of the wealthy and powerful, and one of the birthplaces of industrial forestry in the US, which wiped out forests from coast to coast. The tree biotechnology industry is continuing this destructive legacy. They plan to cut down native forests and replace them with GE tree plantations grown solely for the profit of the elite at the expense of local communities and biodiversity.”
Protesters are demanding a ban on the release of GE trees into the environment. South Carolina-based ArborGen, a major conference sponsor, has a request pending with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to release millions of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees annually for planting in vast plantations across the US South.
On Monday, two Asheville residents were arrested after invading the conference and disrupting the opening day. On Tuesday, hundreds of people marched through the streets and rallied outside the conference hotel as conference participants took part in a workshop on the future of forest biotechnology. It was the largest anti-GE tree protest to date.
Wednesday, the conference organizers had planned a field trip for conference participants but it was canceled due to the threat of protests.
A local woman with Katuah Earth First!, one of those arrested today said, “Trees should not be burned for fuel – this is a false solution to climate change. Monoculture plantations for bioenergy are already displacing Indigenous Peoples and local communities all over the world, and they will have a major impact on rural livelihoods and biodiversity here in the US South.”
She continued, ”GE trees like ArborGen’s highly flammable, water-intensive and invasive eucalyptus would be especially devastating to our communities in the face of drought and extreme weather due to climate change.”
The Tree Biotechnology 2013 conference, taking place in Asheville from 26 May to 1 June, is the premier international conference on GE trees, organized by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).