Category Archives: GE Trees

World Rainforest Movement on GE Trees at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Right Now

Information below from the World Rainforest Movement regarding the ongoing UN Convention on Biological Diversity COP 12 in South Korea and the controversy stirring there around the Brazilian Biosafety Commission (CTNBio)’s consideration of a request to commercialize GE eucalyptus trees in the country.

Timber corporation Suzano and their subsidiary Futuragene made this request to CTNBio earlier this year. Any such approval would blatantly violate the CBD COP-9 decision that called on all signatories to the CBD (including Brazil) to adhere to the Precautionary Approach regarding GE trees [in other words don't approve them unless they have been proven safe--which they have not, not even close!]

Please read more on the issues below.

The 12th Conference of the Parties (COP 12) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is taking place in South Korea.

There are several issues being addressed by the COP 12 such as biodiversity and ecosystems conservation, invasive species, synthetic biology, benefit sharing from access to genetic resources, biofuels and many others. If you wish to learn more about the discussions taking place and why they are relevant, we would like to invite you to visit the CBD Alliance web site (http://www.cbdalliance.org) where you will be able to read about what is at stake at the COP 12. The CBD Alliance, a group of civil society actors that critically monitor and seek to influence and inform about the CBD, has identified key issues that will be debated at the CBD.

One such issue has to do with Genetically Modified Trees, also called Genetically Engineered (GE) or transgenic trees. During a previous CBD meeting (COP 9) a decision was adopted (IX/5) calling for application of the precautionary approach regarding transgenic trees. It urges parties to strictly apply the precautionary approach and not to authorise the environmental release of GE trees until research can show that any possible negative impact can be ruled out, including impacts on the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities. This international CBD decision has to be followed up and implemented at the national level. Further reading at: http://www.cbdalliance.org/en/images/COP12/Briefing_notesCOP12/Briefing_on_GE_Trees.pdf

However, in countries like Brazil and USA (whose government has never ratified the CDB), corporations have submitted applications to request the commercial release of GE Trees. Indigenous Peoples, civil society organizations and social movements in both countries are raising alarms and urge their governments not to approve those requests, amongst others on the grounds of the CBD decision. Worldwide, several groups are involved in a campaign to Stop GE Trees (see stopgetrees.org).

If you wish to read the letter sent to Brazilian authorities urging them not to authorise the request by a company involved in industrial tree plantations please visit: http://wrm.org.uy/all-campaigns/open-letter-to-be-sent-to-the-brazilian-national-technical-biosafety-commission-ctnbio/

In the USA the Indigenous Environmental Network and Eastern Band of Cherokee community members organized a gathering of Indigenous Peoples from across the Southeastern US for an historic Indigenous Peoples’ action camp against genetically engineered trees (GE trees). Participants condemned GE trees as a form of colonization of the forest. You can read further at:
http://stopgetrees.org/indigenous-peoples-unite-stop-genetically-engineered-trees/

Finally, for those who would like to know what is happening in relation to GE Tree research in countries around the world, we invite you to read the updated WRM publication called: “GE Trees Research. A Country by Country Overview”. It includes information on whether there is research on GE Trees taking place or not in the countries included in the overview, which tree species are being engineered, for which purposes, who is behind the research and what are the risk for the environment and the communities whose livelihoods depend on it. The publication is available at : http://wrm.org.uy/books-and-briefings/ge-tree-research-a-country-by-country-overview/

We hope you find this information useful. Please let us know if you have any question.

The WRM Team


www.wrm.org.uy

 

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Filed under Biodiversity, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, UN, Uncategorized

Rachel Smolker on IEN’s Indigenous Peoples’ Action Camp to Stop GE Trees

Frank Billie of the Seminole Tribe from Florida. Photo by Photolangelle.

Frank Billie of the Seminole Tribe from Florida. Photo by Photolangelle.

As we reported yesterday, the Indigenous Environmental Network and Eastern Band of Cherokee community members organized a gathering of Indigenous Peoples from across the Southeastern US last week for an historic Indigenous Peoples’ action camp against genetically engineered trees (GE trees).

Participants condemned GE trees as a form of colonization of the forest.

Rachel Smolker, co-director of Biofuelwatch, participated in the action camp as a member of the steering committee of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees.

In her blog for the Huffington Post, Smolker provides a compelling account of the purpose for the action camp and the ideas coming out of it.

Rachel SmolkerColumbus Day and the Colonization of Land, Trees and Genes

By Rachel Smolker, Huffington Post Tech Blog, October 13, 2014.

I spent the past several days participating in the Indigenous Environmental Network Campaign to Stop GE Trees Action Camp in the Qualla Boundary, homelands of the Eastern Band Cherokee in North Carolina. Participants included members of tribes across the Southeast, who came to learn about plans for growing genetically engineered trees on and/or adjacent to their territories.

On Columbus Day we can sadly reflect on the brutal history of colonization that American Indians faced when Europeans “discovered” and then claimed their lands. Now, centuries later, the ongoing colonization process threatens to colonize not only their lands, but even the genetics of the trees in their forests that are central to their history and livelihoods.

Read the whole essay here.

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Indigenous Peoples unite to stop genetically engineered trees, calling them another form of colonization

0_w650_h230_s1Qualla Boundary, North Carolina–In the shadow of Columbus Day and the legacy of colonization in the Americas, the Indigenous Environmental Network and Eastern Band of Cherokee community members organized a gathering of Indigenous Peoples from across the Southeastern US for an historic Indigenous Peoples’ action camp against genetically engineered trees (GE trees). Participants condemned GE trees as a form of colonization of the forest.

The Indigenous Environmental Network Campaign to STOP GE Trees Action Camp focused on building an information-sharing and mobilization network of tribal representatives and community members to address the unique threats posed by GE trees to Indigenous Peoples, their culture, traditions and lifeways. Steering Committee members of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees were invited to present concerns about the social and ecological dangers of GE trees.

“All trees and the variety of life that depend on forest biodiversity have historically and will in the future continue to be a necessary part of Indigenous culture and survival, which GE trees directly threaten,” stated BJ McManama, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network.

The action camp, which took place in the mountains of North Carolina, detailed threats of genetically engineering forms of native trees traditionally used by eastern Indigenous Peoples, specifically the American chestnut.

Cherokee participants expressed fears that American chestnuts, genetically engineered with DNA from unrelated species, would negatively impact their traditional lifeways, saying that GE trees are dead trees with no soul.

Lisa Montelongo, a Cherokee community member, mother of four and grandmother of two speaks of her concerns that Ge trees would impact future generations. Photo by Photolangelle.org.

Lisa Montelongo, a Cherokee community member, mother of four and grandmother of two speaks of her concerns that Ge trees would impact future generations. Photo by Photolangelle.org.

“I’m very concerned that GE trees would impact our future generations and their traditional uses of trees. Our basket makers, people that use wood for the natural colors of our clay work–there would be no natural life, no cycle of life in GE tree plantations,” said Lisa Montelongo of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.

Genetically engineered eucalyptus trees also threaten Indigenous lands in the US South. GE eucalyptus plantations, proposed by GE tree company ArborGen, are planned from South Carolina to Florida to Texas. The future development of millions of acres of non-native and invasive GE eucalyptus trees would threaten Indigenous lands throughout the region with devastating impacts including depletion of water, contamination with toxic herbicides and pesticides and loss of biodiversity.

Danny Billie of the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation, based in Florida points out how real forests "mean life to The People, but Ge trees mean death." PhotoLangelle.org

Frank Billie of the Seminole Nation, based in Florida points out how real forests “mean life to The People, but Ge trees mean death.” PhotoLangelle.org.

“This needs to be stopped immediately. This is not how the forest was meant to be used.  The forest gives life to The People, but these GE trees mean death.They are not for The People, they are only to make money for a few rich people,” said Frank Billie of the Seminole Nation, based in Florida.

100% of participants at the camp oppose the release of GE trees.

More photos below:

Frank Billie of the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation from Florida. Photo by Photolangelle.

Frank Billie of the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation from Florida. Photo by Photolangelle.org.

T-shirt of the Cherokee woman responsible for feeding those in attendance at the Indigenous Environmental Network Campaign to STOP GE Trees Action Camp. Photo by Photolangelle.org

T-shirt of the Cherokee woman responsible for feeding those in attendance at the Indigenous Environmental Network Campaign to STOP GE Trees Action Camp. Photo by Photolangelle.org.

 

 

 

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Filed under Events, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Indigenous Peoples, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Corporate evasion of deforestation rules in Indonesia makes local communities responsible

As a follow-up to Wednesday’s Climate Connections story on protecting peat forests in Indonesia, we bring this story: Palm oil companies in Indonesia are contracting with local communities to purchase harvested fruits. This results in smallholders and local communities engaging in clearing protected forests and planting palms in the protected areas. This shifts the responsibilities and the legal consequences of breaking the laws to individuals, many of which are going to jail.

"Smallholder" clearing in Central Kalimantan in 2013. Photos by Rhett Butler  Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/1004-lbell-small-palm-oil.html#8ouL8R4r3OrMtAX3.99

“Smallholder” clearing in Central Kalimantan in 2013. Photos by Rhett Butler
Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/1004-lbell-small-palm-oil.html#8ouL8R4r3OrMtAX3.99

Companies hire local communities to evade palm oil restrictions in Indonesia
Loren Bell, Mongabay. October 4, 2014

As more palm oil companies are held accountable for deforestation in Indonesia, a growing number are hiring local communities to do their dirty work. According to the Oil Palm Farmers Union (SPKS), companies promise to buy mature fruits at attractive rates from smallholders and local villages who agree to clear and plant in protected forest areas. Through these agreements, companies distance themselves from the process, leaving the locals to bear responsibility for the destruction.

Mansuetus Darto, National Coordinator of SPKS, says the deals often involve local officials, who encourage law enforcement to look the other way.

“However, if law enforcement is not complicit,” Darto said, when action is taken, “the palm oil companies are able to ‘dump the body,’ while the community members who entered the agreement are the ones who go to jail. This is happening throughout Indonesia.”

Read the Full Article Here.

 

 

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Commodification of Life, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Land Grabs, Uncategorized

Indonesia peatland protection a huge climate change issue

Tropical peat swamp forests in Southeast Asia “have been systematically cleared, drained, and burned away” to make room for eucalyptus tree and palm oil plantations. These peatlands have taken thousands of years to evolve, and are critical natural resources that store enormous amounts of carbon and promote the earth’s ability to resist atmospheric instability. Read more here in this July 2014 article by Loren Bell from Mongabay, “What is peat swamp, and why should I care?”

This is another informative piece posted at GreenPeace Blog in June of this year: “10 Reasons to Save the Indonesian Peat”

The Indonesian government has responded to the crisis by enacting legislation protecting the peat forests.

Recently the Indonesian High Court of Banda Aceh upheld a ruling against PT. Alam, a Palm Oil company found guilty of destroying over 1000 hectares of protected peat forest.

Indonesia’s peat stores a significant amount of carbon – up to 60 billion metric tons, which makes it a virtual carbon bomb when released through deforestation and burning. Photo: Kerumutan Peat Swamp Forest, important habitat for the critically-endangered Sumatran tiger, by Kemal Jufri – Greenpeace.

Indonesia’s peat stores a significant amount of carbon – up to 60 billion metric tons, which makes it a virtual carbon bomb when released through deforestation and burning. Photo: Kerumutan Peat Swamp Forest, important habitat for the critically-endangered Sumatran tiger, by Kemal Jufri – Greenpeace.

Last week at a business roundtable in Jakarta, the Indonesian Palm Oil Producer Association, and the Pulp and Paper Producers Association criticized the Peat Forest Protection Legislation and called for its annulment. We will follow this story.

Read the story from the Jakarta Post below.

Peatland rule sparks protests

By Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post. October 6, 2014

Palm oil and forestry-based industries strongly protested the newly issued government regulation on peatland protection and management, saying that it would hurt investment in oil palm plantations totaling Rp 136 trillion (US$11.17 billion) and 340,000 workers in the plantation sector.

Indonesian Palm Oil Producer Association (Gapki) and Pulp and Paper Producers Association said during a roundtable discussion organized by Indonesian Journalists Association (PJI) in Jakarta on Friday that the government regulation should be annulled or revised.

Water levels in the country’s 1.7 million peatlands are mostly below the required level to grow oil palm and eucalyptus trees. Therefore, most peatland areas accommodating oil palm plantations will have to be rehabilitated. According to the association, if water levels surpass 40 cm, oil palm and eucalyptus trees will be unable to grow due as their roots will be submerged in water.

Read the full story here.

 

 

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Next up in genetically engineered plants — Glowing Trees

Imagine this: It’s nearly midnight and you’ve had to park about five blocks away from your apartment. This used to be an anxiety-producing ordeal, as you hated walking alone at night. Now, it’s no big deal thanks to the comforting light of the glowing trees planted on your street.

That’s right — glowing trees.

plants. Photo: Lindsey Hoshaw/KQED

Photo: Lindsey Hoshaw/KQED

A recent post on Quest introduces audiences to Kyle Taylor, founder of Glowing Plants, which uses DNA from fireflies to engineer plants that emit an unnatural, eerie glow. Taylor hopes to begin selling seeds to the public by December 2014.

First of all, what environmental problem is this solving? Use of energy for light? Exactly how many of these faintly glowing ferns would need to fill a studio apartment to actually save energy? The Glowing Plants seem more like biological lava lamps than a proposed solution to the energy crisis.

Second, what is being done to prevent contamination? There is no mention of any research done to determine the potential effects Glowing Trees could have on plants and animals. Years from now will students in a biology class debate the ways to combat this evasive glowing species? How will these glowing plants effect nocturnal animals?

This project seems to ride on the coattails of the renewable energy platform, when in reality it’s little more than biotech decor. The priorities of this project seem to rest mainly in the idea that interfering with the  genetic course set by nature is “cool and interesting.”

Glowing Plants? City Streets Lit by Trees
by  Lindsey Hoshaw, QUEST Northern California, Oct 02, 2014

In the basement of a startup lab in San Francisco, scientist Kyle Taylor stands in a dark, windowless room.

“I kind of like to have a big reveal,” he said, taking out a small plant that shined like a nightlight. The mouse-ear cress had been injected with firefly DNA so it emitted a soft green glow.

“It looks like it’s getting brighter, but actually your eyes are adjusting,” he said, “although one day we hope to make the plants emit more light.”

Taylor is the biotechnologist behind Glowing Plants, a synthetic-biology startup company that plans to sell engineered seeds to the public in December.

Read the full article here.

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Sewage treatment plants demonstrated to help create and circulate new mutant microbes

Last July David Cameron warned that the world could be soon cast back into the dark ages of medicine if we do not find a way to deal with newly evolving bacteria that is becoming resistant to antibiotics.

One has to make the connection between antibiotic resistant microbes and the increasing changes of life forms, including important ecosystem supporting microbes, to genetically engineered (Round-up ready, etc.) food crops and experimental GE Trees. These products are designed to boost the so called “green” economy and are untested rapidly expanding  dangers. These frankenplants are modifying ecosystems and the biosphere in ways that we have not even begun to understand. Ok, well maybe we have begun to understand.

Cameron has urged the world’s drug companies to “accelerate” the discovery of a new generation of antibiotics.

One can be sure that this will be done in the context of profitability.  Disaster capitalism knows no boundaries except profit, -not even when that conflicts with human health and sustainability. This is the same context that corporate influenced governments are using to rush to develop so called “green” strategies to climate change. Profit is the first principle–and unfortunately this is viewed through the smoked glasses of the near term quarterly reports. Complex science problems can be overwhelming even for the most talented and diligent scientists, engineers, and thinkers. We know that we don’t know enough. We know that we are moving along into a dark tunnel. We also know that many of us are organized to strongly advocate for common sense as opposed to simplistic economic growth without a thorough analysis of the consequences..

We urge a precautionary approach as a real first step in all science and in what we work for–stopping release of potential synthetic ecosystems, or radically out of control synthesized ecosystems,  without a whole lot more research. We believe our species has a responsibility to do adequate risk assessments for any developing product. We demand these concepts  be first. We do not endorse nor wish to endure watching humanity follow the money like a moth drawn to a candle. We hope that Cameron can help us find our way through the dire delima that is described below, but we have our doubts.  We know, as you do, that these issues are barging into where you live and have proven to treat humans unkindly. The dark ages of medicine is just one way to characterize our future. Shouldn’t we be demanding system change? should’t we at least demand a ban on all GE Trees? The answer to both is yes.

The article below is from July of 2014,  and helps to contextualize the out of control mutations issues that we face with the release of GE crops.

Discovery in the UK reveals role of sewer plants in creating mutated microbes that are resistant to antibiotics

UK discovery reveals role of sewer plants in antibiotic-resistant microbes (Keith Williams, Creative Commons via The Independent)

 

Drug-resistant bacteria: Sewage-treatment plants described as giant ‘mixing vessels’ after scientists discover mutated microbes in British river

Steve Connor  The Independent

Superbugs resistant to some of the most powerful antibiotics in the medical arsenal have been found for the first time in a British river – with scientists pinpointing a local sewage-treatment plant as the most likely source.

Scientists discovered the drug-resistant bacteria in sediment samples taken downstream of the sewerage plant on the River Sowe near Coventry. The microbes contained mutated genes that confer resistance to the latest generation of antibiotics.

The researchers believe the discovery shows how antibiotic resistance has become widespread in the environment, with sewage-treatment plants now acting as giant “mixing vessels” where antibiotic resistance can spread between different microbes.

A study found that a wide range of microbes living in the river had acquired a genetic mutation that is known to provide resistance to third-generation cephalosporins, a class of antibiotics used widely to treat meningitis, blood infections and other hospital-acquired infections.

Read the whole piece here 

 

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, GMOs, Greenwashing, Human made disasters, Synthetic Biology, Water

Hearst Newspapers uncover GMO apple tree plots in Washington State

How do you like them GMO apple trees? Obviously, we don’t.

Hearst uncovered information showing that heavy rains washed out or otherwise damaged test plots, raising the specter of unwanted dispersal of genetically engineered trees and crops.

Hearst uncovered information showing that heavy rains washed out or otherwise damaged test plots, raising the specter of unwanted dispersal of genetically engineered trees and crops.

Using the Freedom of Information law, Hearst Newspapers recently uncovered hindreds of infractions with genetically engineered crops and trees, including the location of an experimental apple tree plot run by Gebbers Farms in Brewster, Wash. According to an article in the Seattle Pi, the little-known U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service halfheartedly issued the farm with a few superficial citations for planting genetically engineered apple trees too close to natural one, thereby risking contamination.

Bill Lambrecht’s article “Gene-altered apple tested in Washington state” lists the Gebbers cover-up along with other startling GMO-related infractions that were poorly penalized, including issues with field trials, noncompliance from Monsanto, permits issued to plant GMO crops in environmentally-sensitive areas and animals that stumbled upon, and subsequently ingested, GE test plots.

These findings unearth more instances of the U.S. government concealing layer after layer of misinformation about genetically engineered crops and trees. This all comes at a time when public opinion and government propaganda about genetically modified foods are clearly at a stand off. Why is it so hard for the U.S. and other governments to back off from GMOs and GE trees when the majority of the population, their constituents, are clearly against it? By letting these pro-GMO companies off lightly, the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service continues to serve as another reminder of the wasteful spending in U.S. government and the unacceptable corporate greenwashing that influences public policy.

Gene-altered apple tested in Washington state

by Bill Lambrecht, Seattle Pi, Sept. 5, 2014

An inspection of an orchard of experimental, genetically modified apples in central Washington last year turned up a troubling finding – gene-altered trees flowering less than 100 feet from conventional apple trees.

The grower, Gebbers Farms of Brewster, Wash., previously had been cited for conducting a field trial too near conventional apples, failing to keep good records and making no effort to keep animals away from the plot.

[...]

Among the findings of Hearst’s investigation:

  • Minimal penalties: The Agriculture Department issued just two civil penalties for field trials infractions since 2010 despite sending out nearly 200 notices of non-compliance – incidents from minor paperwork violations to lost seeds to modified plants sprouting where they shouldn’t.
  • Monsanto mistakes. The Missouri-based biotechnology pioneer, which has conducted about a quarter of all the field trials in the United States, received at least 35 notices of non-compliance from 2010 through 2013, more than any other company. In 2010, the company paid a civil penalty after accidentally ginning experimental cotton two years earlier in Texas, an error that led to unapproved cottonseed meal and hulls consumed by livestock and exported to Mexico for animal feed.
  • California “pharming”: APHIS is approving permits for pharmaceutical corn in an environmentally sensitive area along the Central Coast even though the head of the company founded another company that contaminated Midwestern crops with genetically modified organisms (GMOs.)

Read the full article here.

 

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Filed under Biofuelwatch, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, GMOs, Synthetic Biology, Tree Plantations