Category Archives: GE Trees

This Holiday Season say NO to GMO Chestnuts

by Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project


A nut rests the spiny bur of a rare surviving American chestnut tree. A fungus wiped out almost all of the trees, which once numbered in the billions. (The American Chestnut Foundation/Via Associated Press)

In a society rising up against the corporate capture of our food supply in the form of GMOs, a new untested and not-yet-approved GMO food is being promoted: the GMO chestnut.

Not surprisingly, a recent op-ed in the Washington Post makes the absurd assertion that this emerging new GMO food as the answer to hunger and a step toward reconnecting with our food supply:

Repopulating our woods — and even our yards, our commons and our courthouse lawns — with [GE] American chestnuts would put a versatile, nutritious, easily harvested food source within reach of just about everyone. For those living on the margins, it could be a very real hedge against want. For everyone, it could be a hedge against distancing ourselves from our food, which can be the first step toward a diet low in the whole foods that virtually every public health authority tells us we should eat more of.

GMO chestnuts are whole foods?  A food source for the poor?  Not too many people know how to eat chestnuts anymore.  And what is the health impact of eating GMO chestnuts?

The scientists developing the GMO chestnuts argue that they have been modified only with the insertion of a single wheat gene, so what can possibly be the harm?  We eat wheat, right?  But as any ecologist, or thinking geneticist knows, genes outside of the genome in which they evolved can do highly unpredictable things.  And the genome into which they are inserted is damaged in the process resulting in mutations.  These mutations in turn lead to unanticipated consequences.  So no, just because it is a single gene from wheat, it is not inherently safe.

The author of the op-ed goes on to make the utterly uninformed assertion:

[The GMO Chestnut] wasn’t created for personal profit or for the benefit of corporations or farmers. It contributes to a wholesome, healthful diet. And it’s intended solely for the public good.

Yeah, not quite.  A look at the partners and funders of this program at SUNY ESF over the years reveals some very disturbing bedfellows.  Monsanto and ArborGen among them.  ArborGen is a GE tree research and development company based in South Carolina that has requested permission from the USDA to sell GE eucalyptus trees by the billions for planting across the Southern US from South Carolina to Texas.  Oh yes, and ArborGen is jointly owned by International Paper and MeadWestvaco–timber multinationals.

Eucalyptus trees will be an ecological disaster.  They are non-native, invasive, water-greedy, suppress the growth of other vegetation, provide no habitat for wildlife, and are explosively flammable.  Yet ArborGen wants to see them in huge plantations along the US Gulf Coast.

So if the GE chestnut tree is truly “intended solely for the public good,” why is ArborGen involved?  For one reason.  The GE American chestnut tree is being promoted to convince the public that GE trees can be beneficial.  The hope is that they will help change the extremely powerful public opposition to GE trees and open up markets for new GE tree “products” that could mean big big profits for timber and biomass companies.

GE Chestnut trees are part of a very specific (and expensive) public relations strategy–open the door for other GE forest trees: GE eucalyptus, poplar and pine.

And what will be the impact on the forests of releasing GE American chestnut trees into them?  The scientists envision these GE trees growing by the billions throughout the Eastern forests of the US.  To achieve this, they plan to release these GE trees in a fully fertile state to spread their pollen and seeds widely, contaminating any wild American chestnuts in their path.  So much for restoring the naturally blight resistant American chestnuts, they will be contaminated along with the rest.

How would the damaged genomes of these GE trees, that can grow for centuries, react to the various environmental stresses they encounter?  How would drought, extreme cold, floods, etc impact them?  What if the gene were to stop working suddenly (known as “gene silencing”) and these trees again became susceptible to the blight?  And what if this newly blight-suscepible wheat gene was transferred back to wheat, threatening the wheat crop?

No, far from helping us achieve food sovereignty and food independence, this GE American chestnut tree is a Pandora’s box of potential disasters best left closed.  Fortunately, it has not yet been approved for large-scale release.  We are working to ensure this never happens.

If you agree, please sign on to ban GE Trees here

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Food Sovereignty, Forests, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, GMOs, Greenwashing, Uncategorized

Impressions from Paraguay: Day one in the tropics

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

Ayoreo family in the Gran Chaco in Paraguay.  This family and their community were forcibly relocated from their homeland by groups who want to exploit the Chaco.

Ayoreo family in the Gran Chaco in Paraguay. This family and their community were relocated from their homeland by groups who want to exploit the Chaco.

Global Justice Ecology Project just arrived in Paraguay for two weeks of meetings on the themes of wood-based bioenergy, genetically engineered trees, the impacts of livestock and GMO soy production on global deforestation levels, and the solutions to climate change and deforestation provided by local communities maintaining and caring for their traditional lands.

Looking out of the Asunción hotel room at the wide majestic Paraguay river, and the expanse of forest on the other side, feeling the tropical humidity and listening to the rumble of distant thunder, it is hard to imagine that yesterday my GJEP colleague and I woke up in the midst of a major snowstorm in Buffalo, NY.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Corporate Globalization, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Indigenous Peoples, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests, Tree Plantations, Uncategorized

“Genetically engineered chestnuts? Not so fast,” Dr. Martha Crouch

NoBarTree3Martha Crouch, a biologist and a consultant on science issues with the Center for Food Safety, wrote this pointed response to a recent story in about the GE chestnut being worked on and promoted by Drs. William Powell and Chuck Maynard from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse.


SUNY ESF plan to release genetically engineered chestnut tree is too hasty (Your letters)

By Dr. Martha L. Crouch, 14 November 2014.

To the Editor:

Regarding Glenn Coin’s Nov. 6, 2014 story, “Breakthrough at SUNY ESF: Genetic engineering may save the nearly extinct American chestnut”:

Genetically engineered chestnuts? Not so fast.

Imagine: “Bald eagles genetically engineered with pigeon genes to withstand pesticides.” Or, “Scientists insert synthetic DNA into Florida panthers to resist deadly virus.”

Many conservationists would balk at interfering with wild animals in such an extreme way – directly manipulating their very nature by adding genes from unrelated species.

Read more about it at and leave a comment!

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Filed under GE Trees, Genetic Engineering

Guatemala says No GMO to Monsanto

Guatemala has been shielded from Big Ag thanks to the unyielding efforts by a passionate group of indigenous peoples, human rights activists and campesinos. Their protests pressured the Guatemalan government into repealing a decree known as the “Monsanto Law,” which would have given the international biocrop corp access to the country’s agriculture market.

In Sololá, hundreds of campesinos mobilized to oppose the “Monsanto Law,” which would have opened Guatemala to the privatization of seed. Photo: WNV/Jeff Abbott

In Sololá, hundreds of campesinos mobilized to oppose the “Monsanto Law,” which would have opened Guatemala to the privatization of seed. Photo: WNV/Jeff Abbott

An article on EarthFirst! chronicles the 10 day protest to keep Monsanto from planting roots in Guatemalan soil. Not only are there major health and economic concerns with Monsanto stepping in, but there are also spiritual issues, as well. While there are multitudes of indigenous tribes in Guatemala, many of them share the belief that seeds are sacred; that human life, a gift from the gods, comes from the very seeds Monsanto seeks to corrupt.

In Guatemala, Indigenous Communities Prevail Against Monsanto
by Jeff Abbott, Popular Resistance, 10 November 2014

Late in the afternoon of September 4, after nearly 10 days of protests by a coalition of labor, indigenous rights groups and farmers, the indigenous peoples and campesinos of Guatemala won are rare victory. Under the pressure of massive mobilizations, the Guatemala legislature repealed Decree 19-2014, commonly referred to as the “Monsanto Law,” which would have given the transnational chemical and seed producer a foot hold into the country seed market.

“The law would have affected all indigenous people of Guatemala,” said Edgar René Cojtín Acetún of the indigenous municipality of the department of Sololá. “The law would have privatized the seed to benefit only the multinational corporations. If we didn’t do anything now, then our children and grandchildren would suffer the consequences.”

What are those consequences? Get the full story here.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, GE Trees, GMOs, Indigenous Peoples, Monsanto

GE American chestnuts: Conservation or Trojan Horse?

This week’s Earth Minute delves into the concerns with genetically engineered American chestnut trees.

GJEP partners with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK Los Angeles for weekly Earth Minutes on Tuesday and Earth Watch interviews on Thursday.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Earth Minute, Earth Radio, Forests, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Greenwashing

The 13th Annual ISBGMO Conference spreads anti-climate agenda

Corporations, lawmakers and scientists descend on Cape Town, South Africa, to peddle their false solutions to climate change at the 13th Annual International Symposium on the Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms (ISBGMO). From Nov. 9-13, 2014, participants will meet for keynotes and panel discussions with vague titles such as “The Long and Winding Road for Regulatory Approval of GM Forest Trees.”

Image from

Image from

The conference theme is “Advancing ERA of GMOs to Address Biosafety in a Global Society.” Not surprisingly,  the biggest Big Ag big players are sponsoring the conference: FuturaGene, Monsanto, Dow and Dupont, among many others.

This conference  is just another example of how corporate agendas are really the driving force behind genetically modified organisms, particularly GMO crops and GE trees for biofuels. Participants perpetuate pro-GMO propaganda by claiming to consider biosafety issues, but ignore the scientific data showing that the only safe GMOs are no GMOs.

Intro from the Website: International Symposium on the Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms (ISBGMO)
International Society for Biosafety Research (ISBR), Nov. 9-13, 2014

The International Society for Biosafety Research (ISBR) and the Local Organising Committee are pleased to announce that Cape Town, South Africa will be hosting the International Symposium on the Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms (ISBGMO) from 9-13 November 2014. The conference will be held at the The Westin, Cape Town The Westin with there outstanding conference facilities.

The ISBGMO is a biennial, international meeting organised under the auspices of the ISBR, which has previously been hosted in Germany, Canada, China, France, Korea, New Zealand, Argentina and the USA. It brings together academics, technology developers, regulatory authorities, non-government organisations and other credible stakeholders involved in all aspects of biosafety and offers a unique opportunity to share information and experiences and engage in open and meaningful dialogue on biosafety research, risk analysis, policy and regulatory matters.

Follow the conversation around the conference on Twitter by using the hashtag #ISBGMO13.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Biofuelwatch, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, GMOs

Exposé: USDA drops the ball on GMO crop oversight

This expose by Hearst newspapers on the lax approach to GMO crop oversight by the US Department of Agriculture is unfortunately not surprising, given the agency’s history of pro-GMO crop decisions.  It is, however, one more powerful reason to oppose the approval of genetically engineered forest trees in the US.

Species currently being developed include non-native GE eucalyptus trees (which APHIS is currently evaluating for widespread commercial release), GE American chestnut trees (which would be released into forests with the express intent of contaminating wild American chestnut trees), as well as GE poplar and GE pine, which have wild relatives across the Hemisphere that would be at risk from contamination.

Here’s an idea.  Let’s ban GE trees instead.  Sign our petition here.

Weak Oversight of GM Field Trials in the U.S.
Source: Third World Network
“Arctic Apples” genetically modified (GM) not to turn brown have become the centre of controversy in the United States when an inspection of an orchard of these apple trees found them flowering less than 100 feet from non-GM apple trees, in violation of GM field trial regulations. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering the approval of GM non-browning apples, which could have an adverse impact on the country’s apple industry if consumers reject GM apples.

Soon after being sliced, a conventional Granny Smith apple (left) starts to brown, while the GMO apple does not. Photo: NPR

Soon after being sliced, a conventional Granny Smith apple (left) starts to brown, while the GMO apple does not. Photo: NPR

The apple grower, Gebbers Farms, was fined by the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) $19,250, which prompted Hearst Newspapers to conduct an investigation into the oversight of GM field trials. It found that only two such fines have been issued since 2010 out of nearly 200 notices of non-compliance issued.

APHIS says it has approved nearly 20,000 field trial permits covering an estimated 100,000 plantings of gene-altered crops. This is akin to a vast outdoor experimentation with GM crops, which is expanding swiftly from common field crops like corn and soybeans into the realm of whole foods and plants with industrial uses.
Describing APHIS as having an “industry-friendly approach” to regulation, the Hearst report reveals a disturbing trend of violations, mistakes and high risks of contamination that have not received adequate attention or action by governing bodies. In particular, APHIS’s weakness in overseeing field trials has drawn heavy criticism from farmers, scientists and other federal agencies.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Forests, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture, Uncategorized

Super Spud: USDA approves GE potato

Scientists at Simplot have blended several different strands of potato RNA into one major super spud, which the USDA recently approved. However, the Center for Food Safety warns that we don’t know enough about this type of RNA interference technology to say for sure that these potatoes are safe for consumption.

The public could find out soon enough; one of Simplot’s biggest customers — McDonald’s.

Photo: Time

Photo: Time

USDA Approves Genetically Engineered Super Potato

by Nolan Feeney, Time, 9 Nov. 2014

But some food-safety experts aren’t psyched about the spud
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday approved a genetically engineered potato that is resistant to bruising and cuts down on a possible cancer-causing substance, though some food-safety experts aren’t so excited about the super spud.

The Innate Potato, trademarked by Simplot, contains the DNA of other kinds of potatoes mixed in through a process known as RFA interference technology, The Guardian reports.

Get the rest of the details here.

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Filed under GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, GMOs