Category Archives: Greenwashing

Groups globally mobilize to stop commercial release of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in Brazil and US

Campaign to STOP GE Trees expands to four continents

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New York - Two unprecedented applications are pending that, if approved, would allow the commercial sale of millions of genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees for development into vast industrial GE tree plantations in the US and Brazil. The Campaign to STOP GE Trees [1] is expanding and mobilizing to stop these and all large-scale releases of GE trees into the environment.

Banner photo (Plantations Are Not Forests) from last Friday's march:  Petermann/GJEP-GFC

Plantations Are Not Forests banner. Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

In the US, ArborGen has a request pending with the Department of Agriculture to commercially sell freeze-tolerant GE eucalyptus trees; in Brazil, Futuragene has requested permission from CTNBio, the Brazilian biosafety regulatory agency, to release GE eucalyptus trees there. CTNBio is planning a public hearing on the Futuragene GE tree application on 4 September. The USDA could release their draft ruling at any time.

“We have tried to ban GE trees globally through various bodies of the United Nations, and now groups are coordinating internationally to stop any and all applications to legalize GE trees,” stated Winfridus Overbeek, Brazil-based Coordinator of the World Rainforest Movement and Steering Committee member for the Campaign. “It’s crucial that these potentially disastrous trees not be commercially released because the health and viability of entire forest ecosystems and the communities who depend on them will be at risk.”

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests, Uncategorized

Genetically engineering perennial grasses for biofuels: the USDA’s next dumb idea

Oh brother.  Where to start with this mess.  First off, genetically engineering perennial grasses is a disaster waiting to happen.  As with genetically engineering trees, there is no way to stop GE perennial grasses from genetically contaminating other grasses once they are released into the environment.  In fact, contamination has been caused simply by conducting outdoor field trials of GE grasses.  GE perennials are an even worse idea than GE annual crop plants because they cannot be contained.

Then there is the problem of trying to create fuel from plant material of any kind, which is leading to massive land grabs around the world, destroying biodiversity and displacing food crops, since there is simply not enough land on Planet Earth to come close to replacing the fossil fuels currently being devoured on a daily basis.

How about instead of these fake techno-fixes, we try reducing the amount of fuel we consume–especially in the U.S.–by, oh, around 90% or so.  Now there’s a real solution.

USDA Funds Genetic Engineering Research for Switchgrass Biofuels

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-  July 24, 2014, Farmers’ Advance

Michigan State University (MSU) plant biologist C. Robin Buell has been awarded $1 million from a joint U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program to accelerate genetic breeding programs to improve plant feedstock for the production of biofuels, bio-power and bio-based products.

Specifically, the MSU College of Natural Science researcher will work to identify the genetic factors that regulate cold hardiness in switchgrass, a plant native to North America that holds high potential as a biofuel source.

“This project will explore the genetic basis for cold tolerance that will permit the breeding of improved switchgrass cultivars that can yield higher biomass in northern climates,” said Buell, also an MSU AgBioResearch scientist. “It’s part of an ongoing collaboration with scientists in the USDA Agricultural Research Service to explore diversity in native switchgrass as a way to improve its yield and quality as a biofuel feedstock.”

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Uncategorized

Monkton landowners: no improvements in Vt. Gas negotiations

By Zach Despart, June 23, 2014. Source: Addison County Independent

Photo from www.risingtidevermont.org

Photo from www.risingtidevermont.org

In a June 19 meeting with legislators and the head of the Department of Public Service, dozens of Monkton residents said they’re still nowhere close to signing easements with Vermont Gas Systems that will allow the company to lay a new pipeline across the town.

In the three months since Monkton residents held a similar meeting with state regulators to address Vermont Gas’ negotiating tactics with regard to its Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project, not a single landowner at this past Thursday evening’s meeting at the Monkton firehouse said that talks with company representatives had improved.

Instead, landowners said Vermont Gas fails to respond to their questions in a timely manner, does not address concerns they harbor, is not offering fair compensation for their land and is secretive about its business practices.

“Nothing has changed,” landowner Selina Peyser said.

The meeting was chaired by Sen. Chris Bray, D-New Haven, and Department of Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia. In addition two dozen landowners, Rep. David Sharpe, D-Bristol, and Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, also attended. Continue reading

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Justice, Fracking, Greenwashing, Land Grabs

17 Groups call on Ecover and Method to drop extreme genetic engineering plans

June 2, 2014. Source: ETC Group
 

Photo from ETC group

Photo from ETC group

San Francisco, Calif.– In an open letter released today 17 national and international consumer, environmental, women’s health and farming groups called on leading “natural” cleaning and personal care products manufacturer Ecover and its U.S.-based subsidiary, Method Products Inc., to cancel plans to use oils and other ingredients derived from synthetic biology, a new and unregulated set of genetic engineering techniques. Earlier this month, Ecover announced it would switch to using oils produced by synthetic biology company Solazyme Inc. (SZYM) via synthetically engineered algae which feed on sugar.
The organizations, including Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Women’s Voices for the Earth, Clean Production Action, Organic Consumers Association, and ETC Group, as well as watchdog and farmer groups in Brazil concerned about the environmental impacts of increased demand for Brazilian sugarcane, say the use of synthetic biology ingredients contradicts Ecover and Method’s branding as “sustainable” and “ecologically sound.”
“Synthetic biology is a new area of extreme genetic engineering and there are no regulations yet in place to deal with the implications of these new synthetic organisms. Our ability to even assess the risks is lagging way behind,” said Jim Thomas of ETC Group. “A wider switch to synthetic biology ingredients is likely to cause serious harm to biodiversity and farmers, and it is disappointing that Ecover and Method are leading the charge.”
Synthetic biology is the practice of artificially constructing genetic material such as DNA in order to create new forms of life or attempt to ‘reprogram’ existing organisms, such as yeast and algae. Synthetic biology companies claim that they can now generate millions of new, untested organisms per day. If a fraction of these synthetic organisms were released, the potential effects on health, the environment and farmer’s livelihoods are wide-ranging – from relatively benign to ecological and economic disruption.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Geoengineering, Greenwashing

Ecover pioneers ‘synthetic biology’ in consumer products

By Jim Thomas, June 16, 2014. Source: The Ecologist

Photo by Lex McKee via Flickr

Photo by Lex McKee via Flickr

Green soap-maker Ecover is the first company to openly admit that that it’s using ingredients derived from synthetically modified organisms – the next wave of GMOs, writes Jim Thomas. So why are they risking their ‘natural’ brand for this experimental biotechnology?

How odd that Ecover thinks the green-minded eco-homemakers that buy its soaps will line up in support of synthetic biology.

Disappointment, surprise, disbelief.

I think I felt a bit of all of these when I discovered that ‘natural’ soap-maker Ecover had become the first company in the world to reveal its use of synthetic biology in the manufacture of consumer products.

The Belgian multinational revealed in April that it has decided to use an algal oil. What it didn’t explain was that the algae oil was produced by biotech company Solazyme using an experimental set of techniques called synthetic biology.

Like many green-minded folks of my generation, I had been using Ecover products as a trusted ‘natural’ brand for over 20 years. Using synthetic organisms to make oil just didn’t jibe with their ‘eco’ image.

Was this a lapse in judgement that Ecover would rapidly rectify once they realised their mistake? I decided to call up Dirk Develter, Ecover’s head of research, to point out the error. Continue reading

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Filed under Corporate Globalization, Genetic Engineering, Greenwashing

‘World’s greenest’ refinery pitched for B.C. Coast

By Lauren Krugel, June 10, 2014. Source: The Canadian Press

Photo by Terry Healy

Photo by Terry Healy

CALGARY – A Vancouver company is pitching a $10-billion oilsands refinery on British Columbia’s north coast that aims to connect Alberta’s vast energy resources with Asian markets while avoiding some of the pitfalls others have encountered.

Pacific Future Energy Corp. says the refinery would be the “world’s greenest” and built in full partnership with B.C. First Nations, many of whom are vehemently opposed to proposals to ship crude to the West Coast for export.

Any day now, Ottawa is expected to decide on one of those proposals: Enbridge Inc.’s (TSX:ENB) controversial Northern Gateway pipeline. One of the biggest concerns with that project is the fact that huge tankers full of diluted oilsands bitumen, or dilbit, would have to navigate the rough waters of the Douglas Channel on their way out into the Pacific.

The Pacific Future proposal — along with others being floated by B.C. newspaper magnate David Black and by aboriginal businessman Calvin Helin — would mean refined products, rather than heavy oil, would be shipped on tankers to Asia, making a potential spill much less environmentally damaging. Continue reading

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Filed under False Solutions to Climate Change, Greenwashing

Will Brazil turn the Amazon into a factory of genetically modified trees?

Source: ejolt (Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade)

By the World Rainforest Movement.

Will the Brazilian government give a permit to plant genetically modified eucalyptus trees on a commercial scale? That’s the breakthrough expected by Suzano, one of the biggest Brazilian pulp and paper companies, and its fully owned biotechnology firm Futuragene. To export pulp and to feed its paper mills in Brazil, the company has planted almost 400 thousand hectares of large-scale monoculture fast-growing eucalyptus plantations in seven Brazilian states.

Suzano´s argument that this is a safe enough technology can be countered by the risks and especially the huge uncertainties that exist around this new technology which should at least postpone any introduction at commercial scale for now. Even the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that has seriously failed by allowing certification of millions of hectares of large-scale monoculture plantations in spite of the many negative social and environmental impacts, at least applies the rule that GE technology should not be used in certified plantations. At least for this reason then, FSC should decertify Suzano, an FSC-certified company.

But another argument deserves a strong and immediate reply: Suzano argues that their new genetically engineered eucalyptus tree will result in a 20% increase in productivity and by introducing such trees, Suzano affirms it will need less land and could therefore reduce the use of chemical inputs and make more land available for food production.

That looks convincing. However, the experience in Brazil itself shows a quite different story. According to EJOLT´s report “A Global Overview of Industrial Tree Plantations”, in the past decades the Brazilian eucalyptus trees that are used in industrial plantations succeeded to achieve a 60% increase in productivity per hectare (not using genetically engineered trees), increasing from 27 m3/ha/year in the 1980s to 44 m3/ha/year currently. More important however is that the area covered by these plantations in the country never decreased for that particular reason. They actually increased from about 4 million hectares at the end of the 1980s to more than 7.2 million hectares today, and the Brazilian plantation industry plans to duplicate this area by 2020. The Brazilian “success story” of being the country with the highest wood productivity per hectare worldwide has never been a reason to use less land, on the contrary. Higher productivity gave these companies such an advantage that they expanded their plantations and pulp mills more and more, increasing their profits.

Suzano´s move to GE eucalyptus trees to increase productivity even more also attends its aim to explore a new use of its wood: producing pellets to be exported for energy production, to co-fire with coal in the UK. For this reason, Suzano has expanded its plantation in the Northeastern state of Maranhão over the past years, causing new conflicts with traditional communities that have been experiencing that their communal territories used for cattle grazing, fruit collection and other activities, get invaded by eucalyptus plantations. This has led to several conflicts, which gave reason to include Suzano in the recently launched EJOLT´s Atlas on Environmental Conflicts.

To summarize, Brazilian experience has learned that rather more than less lands will be occupied when productivity increases, and rather more than less conflicts will arise. Suzano´s demand for commercial planting of genetically modified eucalyptus trees led WRM, together with groups in Brazil and Latin America, to launch a letter to the Brazilian authorities to express their deep concern and urge the Brazilian government not to authorize the commercial release of yield enhanced genetically modified eucalyptus by Suzano/FuturaGene or by any other company that also has, or will present in future, a request for such a release.

A statement from the international Stop GE Trees Campaign in support to this letter is available for sign-ons.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Greenwashing, Industrial agriculture

Carbon neutral tourism falters in Tobago

By Jewel Fraser, June 5, 2014. Source: IPS

Photo by Jewel Fraser/IPS

Photo by Jewel Fraser/IPS

SCARBOROUGH, Jun 5 2014 (IPS) - An initiative to reduce the carbon footprint of Tobago’s tourism sector may be stymied by “bread-and-butter issues” and the failure of government authorities to vigorously pursue the initiative.

In 2012, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) completed a pilot project for the Caribbean Carbon Neutral Tourism Programme (CCNTP) in four Caribbean countries, including Tobago, with the aim of enhancing the tourism sector’s resilience to climate change,

However, the initiative in Tobago has borne little fruit, with some who work in the sector saying they learned about the programme only from media reports.

Tourism is a vital part of Tobago’s life and economy, with reports stating that tourism provides more than 40 percent of Tobago’s employment and 90 percent of its export earnings.

As it is now, everybody is going about business as usual. [Reducing carbon emissions] is not much of a concern. The greater concern is bread and butter issues.” — Dexter Black, president of the Reef Tour Operators

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Filed under False Solutions to Climate Change, Greenwashing, Latin America-Caribbean