Category Archives: GE Trees

BREAKING: Industry hype and misdirected science undercuts real energy and climate solutions

Note: In response to a recent media frenzy about poplars genetically engineered to create biofuels and “greener” paper, Global Justice Ecology Project, Biofuelwatch, Center for Food Safety and Canadian Biotechnology Action Network issued the following statement today.

To sign GJEP’s petition calling for a global ban on GE trees, click here.

-The GJEP Team

April 9, 2014. 

poplar

Scientists and environmentalists today condemned a recent press release by researchers at the University of British Columbia announcing they have created genetically engineered (GE) poplar trees for paper and biofuel production, opening the prospect of growing these GE trees like an agricultural crop in the future.

The poplars were genetically engineered for altered lignin composition to supposedly make them easier to process into paper and biofuels. Groups, however, warn that manipulation of lignin, and the potential contamination of wild poplars with that trait, could be extremely dangerous.

Lignin is a key structural component of plant cell walls and a major component of soils.  It is also the product of millions of years of natural selection favoring sturdy, healthy and resilient plants. GE poplars with altered lignin could have devastating effects on forests, ecosystems, human communities and biodiversity.

Poplars include at least 30 species, are widespread throughout the Northern Hemisphere and have a high potential for genetic dispersal.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, BREAKING NEWS, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering

GMO tree plan grows controversy in Espanola, New Mexico

By Mark Oswald, Friday, March 28, 2014. Source: Albuquerque Journal

poplar

A genetically engineered version of the white poplar tree would be used to produce a rose oil product in Espanola under a proposal by Ealasid Inc.

Who knew that rose oil, or at least a major component of rose oil, could be the next big agricultural product in the Espanola Valley?

A scientist from Washington State University wants to plant genetically engineered poplar trees along the Rio Grande on the north side of Española that will produce 2-phenylethanol, which provides the sweet scent of roses.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, Forests, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture

Group seeks court order on USDA over genetically modified alfalfa

Note: Global Justice Ecology Project has worked with the Center for Food Safety in the past, suing the USDA over their approval of GE eucalyptus field trials throughout the southeast.  Read their report, Genetically Engineered Trees: The New Frontier of Biotechnology.

-The GJEP Team

By Carey Gillam, March 13, 2014. Source: Reuters

Photo: hailmerry.com

Photo: hailmerry.com

A public interest group is asking a court to force the U.S. Department of Agriculture to turn over documents explaining its approval of a genetically altered alfalfa even as the department acknowledged the crop’s potential to do environmental damage.

The Center for Food Safety said on Thursday that it believes the USDA may have succumbed to outside pressure, possibly from Monsanto Co., the developer of the genetic trait in the biotech alfalfa.

CFS filed a lawsuit late on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., seeking a court order for the USDA to turn over nearly 1,200 documents related to the decision about the crop called Roundup Ready alfalfa.

Neither the USDA nor Monsanto responded to requests for comment on Thursday.
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Kior falls after biofuel maker warns of default, bankruptcy

Note: One of the largest attempts yet at manufacturing liquid biofuels from trees seems to be failing.  This is great news for campaigners and communities organizing to stop genetically engineered (GE) trees and biofuels in the southeastern US.  GE tree company ArborGen – which is currently seeking USDA approval to begin selling their cold-tolerant, GE eucalyptus trees – has repeatedly mentioned the cellulosic biofuel industry as an important market for their GE tree seedlings.  Maybe now ArborGen won’t have such an easy time turning the southeast into the plantation-riddled gas tank of the US they’ve been promoting to investors for so long.

-The GJEP Team

By Christopher Martin, March 18, 2014.  Source: Bloomberg 

061512 Kior 14Kior Inc. (KIOR:US), the Vinod Khosla-backed operator of the first U.S. commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel plant, fell the most on record after management told regulators they have serious doubts about staying in business.

Kior declined 39 percent to 65 cents at the close in New York, the most since its June 2011 initial public offering at $15.

The company needs additional capital by April 1 and its only potential source of near-term financing is a March 16 commitment letter from billionaire investor Khosla, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday.

The commitment for as much as $25 million is contingent upon meeting certain milestones. The company shut down its Columbus, Mississippi, biofuel plant in January to upgrade the manufacturing process, and “until we restart the Columbus facility, we expect to have no production or revenue from that facility,” according to the filing.

If the company doesn’t receive additional financing, it will “likely” default on its debts and may file for bankruptcy. “We have substantial doubts about our ability to continue as a going concern,” the Pasadena, Texas-based company said in the filing.

Kior in October received $100 million from Khosla Ventures LLC and Gates Ventures LLC to expand production at the Columbus plant. The company makes transportation fuels from wood waste and non-food crops.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering

Historic court ruling bans Bayer’s GM corn in Brazil

Note: Here is some good news to the round out the week.  While we  aren’t too hopeful that this Brazilian court ruling will set the stage for more of its kind across the world, it could at least provide hurdles to companies like ArborGen and FuturaGene, who want to plant hundreds of millions of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees throughout Brazil.  And who knows, maybe the ripples will reach the courtrooms and regulatory agencies in North America.

Whatever the long-term implications, this is certainly a victory for small farmers in Brazil.

-The GJEP Team

March 14, 2014. Source: Sustainable Pulse

corn-gmo-1-600x363

In an historic ruling on Thursday Brazil’s Federal Appeals Court has unanimously decided to cancel the release for cultivation of Bayer’s Liberty Link GM Maize.

The ruling is another legal disaster for the biotech industry as it follows the decision taken earlier this week by a court in the Campeche region of Mexico toban GM Soybean cultivation, to protect the traditions of the Mayan people, namely beekeeping.

The Brazilian Court annulled the decision by Brazil’s Biosecurity Commission (CTNBio), who had allowed the release for cultivation of Liberty Link GM Maize. The civil action against CTNBio was started by Land Rights, the Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense – IDEC and the National Association of Small Farmers.

The decision is reported to have created new legal paradigm and may force Brazilian authorities to reconsider all other commercial releases of GMOs in Brazil. Never before has a Judge stated that there is a need for studies on the negative impacts of GMOs in all major biomes in the country.
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Filed under Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Victory!

Survey finds GE contamination of organic farms

Note:  More damning evidence against the “coexistence” of GE crops and organic farms.  As GE corn and soybeans have contaminated organic crops, we can expect that, if legalized, GE pine and poplar trees will likely contaminate non-GE trees growing in forests nearby industrial plantations.  This concern, frequently raised by opponents of GE trees, has also been voiced by some of the leading proponents of GE trees as one of the risks.  But hey, maybe the bears, birds and bees will just have to buy some better crop and habitat insurance.

-The GJEP Team

March 10, 2014. Source: Beyond Pesticides

New data finds that organic farmers are growing increasingly concerned with genetically engineered (GE) crops cross-pollinating and contaminating their fields. This contamination can lead to serious economic losses for organic farmers and has created tension between neighbors. The data comes at a critical time as USDA is advancing the notion that “coexistence” between GE and non-GE growers presents no problems for the organic market. USDA has been widely criticized in organic circles because its decisions to deregulate numerous GE crops place the burden of reducing contamination on non-GE growers.

survey, released by Food and Water Watch and Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM), finds that a third of U.S. organic farmers have experienced GE contamination in their fields due to the nearby use of GE crops, while over half of these growers have had loads of grain rejected because of unwitting GE contamination. These rejections can lead to big income losses for farmers, with a median cost of approximately $2,500 per year, according to the survey. Additionally, several farmers report annual losses of over $20,000 due to the need to establish buffer zones, while limit the threat of contamination from their neighbors by taking contiguous farmland out of production.

In the survey, organic farmers also express their frustration that efforts to reduce contamination fall squarely on their shoulders. Nearly half (45 percent) of respondents say that they would not purchase crop insurance intended to cover costs associated with GE contamination. Of the 35 percent of respondents who answered that they would purchase insurance for GE contamination-related losses, more than three-quarters of them (78 percent) believe that the added premium for coverage should be paid by GE patent holders or GE patent holders and GE users.

One farmer responded to the survey, “If [GE] was not here this would not be going on. It’s their contamination that’s the problem but we have to guard against something we have no control over. How do you even get a patent on something you can’t control? The whole object is control and that is not our [organic farmers’] problem.”
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Audio: Eucalyptus trees make way for food crops

Note: This story, which depicts communities’ attempts to reclaim desertified land for agriculture in the wake of water-thirsty eucalyptus plantations, is particularly timely for communities in the United States.

Right now the US Department of Agriculture is considering the legalization of genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus for planting across the US Southeast – the impacts of which would be enormous for a region predicted to experience major droughts in the coming decades.

Take action by calling on the USDA to demand a ban on the release of GE eucalyptus and all GE trees by signing the petition here: http://www.globaljusticeecology.org/petition.php

-The GJEP Team

By Ngala Killian Chimtom, January 9, 2014. Source: Inter Press Service

Sabina Shey Nkabiy tills land cleared of eucalyptus trees. Photo: Stephen Ndzerem

Sabina Shey Nkabiy tills land cleared of eucalyptus trees. Photo: Stephen Ndzerem

Kumbo, Cameroon – A project to reclaim agricultural land lost to eucalyptus plantations is bearing fruit in Cameroon.

Click here for audio

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Filed under Africa, Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Industrial agriculture, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

USDA set to eat the poison apple

Note: Will Bennington is a campaigner with Global Justice Ecology Project.

-The GJEP Team

By Will Bennington, January 9, 2014. 

neal carterGenetically engineered apples may be the next novelty food item to hit markets, if Canadian company Okanagan Specialty Fruits wins the praises of the USDA.

In an article published Tuesday by the Seattle Times, the Arctic Apple, engineered to prevent browning and bruising, is described as an “economic disaster” by organic apple grower Henry House.  Industry groups and consumer advocates are also condemning what would be the first ever GE apple available for commercial production.

Concerns are far ranging, from the risk of contamination of non-GE and organic orchards via pollen transported by honey bees, to the unknown human health impacts of eating GE foods.  Some groups are concerned that that apple – which lacks a naturally occurring apple gene that aides in defense against pests – will increase the amount of pesticides used in apple orchards.  The Center for Food Safety features the Arctic Apple in its new report, Genetically Engineered Trees: The New Frontier of Biotechnology

Because the Arctic Apple doesn’t actually present a solution to any significant problem (not even an inconvenience, really), there is broad opposition among consumer advocates and other unlikely allies.  According to the Seattle Times, some industry groups are coming out against deregulation:
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Fakethrough! GMOs and the capitulation of science journalism

Note: The genetically engineered (GE) tree industry makes similarly lofty claims about their novel products, which so far are unproven.  Attempts to breed poplars that can digest themselves on command in a processing plant, or pine trees that grow like gas stations haven’t done much for forests worldwide to date.  Not to mention the enormous risks they pose if released into the wild. And while these fantasy technologies will hopefully fade into the past, another failed attempt at playing God with nature, it is more likely we’ll have to fight like our lives depend on it to stop the GE tree industry (among others) from wreaking total havoc.

-The GJEP Team

By Jonathan Latham, PhD, January 7, 2014. Source: Independent Science News

freakthrough

Good journalism examines its sources critically, it takes nothing at face value, places its topics in a historical context, and it values above all the public interest. Such journalism is, most people agree, essential to any equitable and open system of government. These statements about journalism are especially applicable to the science media. But while the media in general has recently taken much criticism, for trivialising news and other flaws, the science media has somehow escaped serious attention. This is unfortunate because no country in the world has a healthy science media.

This is science journalism?
According to the New York Times genetically engineered Xa21 rice was big news (Song et al 1995). In a 1995 article titled “Genetic Engineering Creates Rice Resistant to Destructive Blight”, journalist Sandra Blakeslee wrote it was:

“the first time that a disease-resistance gene has been put into rice”

Blakeslee then quoted a senior figure, Gary Toenissen, deputy director of agricultural sciences at the Rockefeller Institute in New York, as saying it heralded

“a new era in plant genetics and resistance breeding”.

But eighteen years after that artice was written, the failure of these predictions is clear. No commercial GMO rice of any kind exists, nor has Xa21 or any similar gene for disease resistance been developed for commercial purposes.
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Filed under Biodiversity, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Greenwashing, Independent Media, Industrial agriculture

Paper companies plan to profit from GMO trees in US, Other GMO plants to come

Note: while not “new” exactly, GMO trees are not yet legal in the US or anywhere in the world except for China.  We can still stop this disaster before it is unleashed.  For more on the dangers of GE trees, go to: http://nogetrees.org

–The GJEP Team

GMO trees are not new though, just a newer threat to the U.S.

Published: Friday 27 December 2013  Source: Nation of Change

Article image
International Paper Co. and MeadWestvaco (MVC) (ArborGen LLC, the joint venture) are planning to transform plantation forests of the southeastern U.S. by replacing native pine with genetically engineered eucalyptus. From the same genetic engineering that has given us GMO corn and soy, CISERO wheat and widespread farmer debt and suicide, we can now look forward to the demise of the “real ” forest altogether.

Few other companies have dared to try to splice foreign DNA into native trees thus far. But an engineered, fast-growing eucalyptus, which grows widely in Australia, will soon replace the native pine in the U.S. as an attempt to dominate the U.S. timber industry.

GMO trees are not new though, they are just a newer threat to the U.S.:

Genetically engineered and other industrial tree plantations are not only a concern in the U.S., but internationally.  Rural communities in Brazil have been fighting non-GE eucalyptus plantations for decades, and are also opposing the introduction of GE eucalyptus plantations. Additionally, in 2006 and 2008 the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) warned countries of the social and ecological dangers of GE trees. —Convention on Biodiversity

International Paper Co. no longer owns forestlands in the U.S. and this may be why they are looking to replant with genetically modified versions. The company, along with its partner in crime, MVC, are counting on a controversial gene splice that restricts trees’ ability to reproduce, meant to allay fears of bioengineered eucalyptus turning invasive and overtaking native forests—at least this is the public reason given for the “need” of GMO trees.

This also means that as non-producing trees overtake larger portions of the forest, our very earth is placed further in control of biotech’s grip. Our forests will become subject to the same God-complex that biotech already presumes of determining when and how Mother Nature grows. The same way we have patented suicide seeds for food crops that must be replanted every year, we will end up with patented forests that won’t regenerate unless we purchase the seeds from the “owners.” There are also obvious and profound ramifications for bio-diversity if this habit of governing nature is allowed to fester unchecked.

“Forest biological diversity results from evolutionary processes over thousands and even millions of years which, in themselves, are driven by ecological forces such as climate, fire, competition and disturbance. Furthermore, the diversity of forest ecosystems (in both physical and biological features) results in high levels of adaptation, a feature of forest ecosystems which is an integral component of their biological diversity. Within specific forest ecosystems, the maintenance of ecological processes is dependent upon the maintenance of their biological diversity.” —Decision Regarding GE Trees at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Ninth Conference of the Parties, Bonn Germany, May 2008

There are also plans for GMO plants which can provide cellulose ethanol that would further indebt us and tie energy consumption to petroleum infused with ethanol. The claim is that GMO plants will make ethanol cheap, but once again biotech overlooks the long-term, domino effect of their actions. Our current use of ethanol isn’t even good. It is bad for car engines, raises taxes and fuel prices and even food prices as more land is cultivated for ethanol-crops instead of organic food.

Once again, the hope of profits outweighs reason. GMO trees, nor GMO plants have not been studied long-term, by non-biased science, and even if tested in the lab, they cannot replicate what will happen in the real world, where GMO crops have already proven to be an wretched failure. Even though eucalyptus trees can resist freezing temperatures, the pine trees that are already growing in the Southwest are not genetically modified.

The company isn’t looking to plant non-GMO trees that are fast growing, like bamboo or hemp, Crape Myrtle, Dawn redwood, Empress trees, Leyland cypress or Lombardy poplar. Bamboo is also one of the biggest carbon sinks on the planet. Why not invest in natural plants and wind energy, instead of trying to own Mother Nature once again. RWE AG is planning on building the largest wood pellet plants in Georgia to supplement coal habits, but what of an investment in cleaner technologies like solar, wind, and wave-generated energy? The U.S. southwest is a huge untapped wind energy corridor. I suppose the dirty energy habit is hard to break.

“The United States is behind the game on this,” said Les Pearson, ArborGen’s director of regulatory affairs. “Lots of countries around the world have been growing eucalyptus for many decades.” In America there are currently over 700 types of trees. Let’s keep it that way. Global Justice Ecology has a petition directed at the USDA you can sign here to keep GMO trees from taking over the world.

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Filed under Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering