Tag Archives: GE Trees

GE security beefed up after battle

Check out this story about a GE trees company in New Zealand feeling pressure. Roturua, NZ is home of forests known as NZ’s Redwoods. For background, you can check out this earlier article from the same paper on protesters destroying a field trial. Close readers of both will note a real change in tone: the first one largely sides with the company; the new one is much more skeptical of it. – GJEP

By Catherine Harris, February 3, 2014. Source: Timaru Herald

Scion, the Crown research institute which looks after forest research, has reinforced security around a trial of genetically modified pine trees following a recent court battle over genetically engineered science.

The institute told Parliament’s education and science select committee recently that it had invested $500,000 to extend GE field trials of up to several hundred pine trees at its Rotorua campus.

Walkway through tree fern understorey of native bush in Whirinaki Forest Park near Rotorua, New Zealand. Wikimedia Commons

Walkway through tree fern understorey of native bush in Whirinaki Forest Park near Rotorua, New Zealand.
Wikimedia Commons

Some of the plants had been modified for herbicide resistance, others for greater growth and “pulpability”, Scion’s chief executive Warren Parker said.

The trials will continue for the next 23 years, with trees being removed before they reach the reproduction stage.

Last month Scion took the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to the Environment Court over its decision to adopt the “precautionary principle” over genetic modification. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate Change

KPFK Sojourner Truth Earth Watch SPECIAL: Tar Sands, GE Trees, and the Langelle Photo project


Clayton Thomas-Muller and Orin Langelle discuss the tar sands, Indigenous resistance to energy extraction, and the role of art and photography in resistance movements in this one hour Sojourner Truth show special.

Global Justice Ecology Project teams up with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK Pacifica Los Angeles for a weekly Earth Minute each Tuesday and a weekly Earth Watch interview each Thursday.

Leave a comment

Filed under Earth Radio

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.

Leave a comment

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

Where’s the Lorax When We Need Him?

Note: Rachel Smolker is a member of the Steering Committee of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees.

by Rachel Smolker, Co-director, Biofuelwatch, 12/19/2013.  Huffington Post

It’s a shame that the Lorax and his message “Who Will Speak For The Trees” has been relegated to the realm of children’s cartoons and fantasy. Especially as trees, forests and ecosystems appear to be right smack in the epicenter of swirling debates about climate change. What those debates seem to boil down to (as the world burns around us) is whether it makes more sense to 1) cut down remaining forests and burn them for “renewable energy”, 2) put a fence around them, measure their carbon content and sell them to polluters as “offsets”, or 3) install vast plantations of trees — (perhaps genetically engineered to grow faster), to suck up atmospheric carbon in hopes this will counter the ongoing gush of carbon into the atmosphere (geoengineering via “afforestation”) or this recent proposal which suggests that cutting down high latitude temperate and boreal forests — or replacing them with short rotation tree plantations, might help “fix” the climate.

Decisions, decisions! So many options. What shall we do with all the trees?

Here in the U.S, a debate is brewing out west in light of recent legislation proposals from Oregon representatives Wyden and Defazio (among others) that would provide supports for “thinning and restoration” (climatespeak for logging) on public lands. The underlying motive is to get access to timber currently off limits to supply expanding demand for biomass to burn as “renewable energy.

Meanwhile, one of the few proclaimed “successes” coming out of Warsaw climate negotiations was towards an agreement on REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). Yet this is hardly a success given mounting evidence that, among other concerns, REDD fails to address the underlying drivers of deforestation. What it has achieved is to create bitter divisions among indigenous communities faced with proposals that would commodify their lands and utterly distracted forest policymakers who are now so caught up in endless debates over REDD that they seem barely to notice that their forests are meanwhile being liquidated.

As if we were not confused enough already, brilliant scientists at Dartmouth have now determined that the value of high latitude temperate and boreal forests (let’s call them “Truffula” trees) — should not be measured solely in terms of their carbon content, nor the value of their timber, but also with respect to the “ecosystem service” they provide (to us that is) of absorbing or reflecting sunlight: their impact on albedo. The basic idea is that at higher latitudes, dark colored tree cover absorbs light and has net warming impact, whereas removing trees or keeping them small and immature allows light to penetrate, increasing the reflectivity of the white ground surface, and contributing to a net cooling effect.

The Dartmouth scientists say: “Our results suggest that valuing albedo can shorten optimal rotation periods significantly compared to scenarios where only timber and carbon are considered… we expect that in high latitude sites, where snowfall is common and forest productivity is low, valuing albedo may lead optimal rotation periods that approach zero.”

In other words those forests will be “more valuable” cut down or replaced with short rotation stunted tree plantations.

In their conclusions the Dartmouth authors state: “In particular, documenting relationships between forest biomass growth, the frequency of snowfall, latitude, and regional stumpage prices may help elucidate locations wherein different forest project strategies provide the maximum climatic benefits.”

Oh really? That sounds easy! Just plug those numbers into an equation and voila we can discover that “optimal climate benefits” indicate we should cut the forests down?

What would the Lorax say, I wonder? Probably that the “value” of forests should not be confined in so reductionist a manner where consideration is granted solely to carbon content, albedo, or timber harvest pricing. What about, just for example, the role of forests in regulating temperature and rainfall patterns over large areas of the earth? Or the role of compounds released into the atmosphere by trees in stimulating cloud formation (and hence influencing albedo)? What about the role of forest in creating fertile soils? Or the production of hydroxyl radicals by forests which are thought to play a key role in the breakdown of atmospheric pollutants? And what about the many many life forms that depend on healthy forest ecosystems?

The authors seem to have had some inkling that there might be other views of the “value” of forests, and offer lip service, recommending that “forest management should include biodiversity considerations when managing the flow of timber, carbon, and albedo services in mid and high latitude temperate and boreal forests.”

Managing the flow of services? If we cut them down then it seems most of the “flow” of “services” will likely come to a screeching halt!

The paper closes with a plug for funding: “Thus, as in all modeling work, we must take caution to consider that optimal forest management may vary quite drastically as the planet responds to climate change. Consequently, detailed and refined projections of these changes are critical for future work in this arena.”

Well, it is good that the authors realize that things will drastically change as climate change progresses. Like, for example, we might find that there is a lot less snow or it melts much faster. Which begs the question: After we have cut down the high latitude temperate and boreal forests to increase the reflective potential of snow cover, what happens when there is no more snow? Now we have no albedo and… no trees, no timber, no carbon, no biodiversity. This must be the Once-ler’s idea!

Perhaps they are taking their lead from another Once-ler, the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry. Recently when questioned about the horrendous doubling in Indonesia’s deforestation rate over the year following announcement of a moratorium on new concessions, responded that this was not “deforestation”, only “temporary deforestation”, (euphemism of the year).

The paleoclimate record suggests that in previous cases where earth’s climate has heated up or cooled down, stability was regained in large part by the sequestering of carbon in plants — forests and ecosystems. For example, Southeast Asian tropical peat forests (now being destroyed for oil palm and pulp and paper plantations and “temporary deforestation”) are thought to have played a key role in stabilizing climate between glacial and interglacial periods over the course of the last few million years of earth history.

The survival of many species faced with warming depends upon a steady northward and uphill climb towards cooler and more favorable conditions. So let’s see… now we are going to cut those forests down, further diminishing the remaining pool of ecosystem diversity in order to gain some supposed cooling due to albedo enhancement over the coming season, or two?

I am certain that the Lorax, and the children to whom that story so appeals, have far more common sense.

Leave a comment

Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Commodification of Life, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Unease among Brazil’s farmers as Congress votes on GM terminator seeds

Note: If Brazil goes through with approving Terminator Technology in violation of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity moratorium, it could remove one of the major obstacles to the commercialization of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in the country.  We are keeping a close eye on this one!

–The GJEP Team

Environmentalists warn approval could shatter global agreement not to use technology, with devastating repercussions

 in Rio de Janeiro and , Thursday 12 December 2013  Source The Guardian

Brazil national congress

Brazil’s national Congress is under pressure from landowning groups to green light GM ‘terminator’ seeds. Photograph: Ruy Barbosa Pinto/Getty Images/Flickr RF

Brazil is set to break a global moratorium on genetically-modified “terminator” seeds, which are said to threaten the livelihoods of millions of small farmers around the world.

The sterile or “suicide” seeds are produced by means of genetic use restriction technology, which makes crops die off after one harvest without producing offspring. As a result, farmers have to buy new seeds for each planting, which reduces their self-sufficiency and makes them dependent on major seed and chemical companies.

Environmentalists fear that any such move by Brazil – one of the biggest agricultural producers on the planet – could produce a domino effect that would result in the worldwide adoption of the controversial technology.

Major seed and chemical companies, which together own more than 60% of the global seed market, all have patents on terminator seed technologies. However, in the 1990s they agreed not to employ the technique after a global outcry by small farmers, indigenous groups and civil society groups.

In 2000, 193 countries signed up to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which recommended a de facto moratorium on this technology.

The moratorium is under growing pressure in Brazil, where powerful landowning groups have been pushing Congress to allow the technology to be used for the controlled propogation of certain plants used for medicines and eucalyptus trees, which provide pulp for paper mills.

The landowning groups want to plant large areas with fast growing GMtrees and other non-food GM crops that could theoretically spread seeds over wide areas. The technology, they argue, would be a safeguard, ensuring that no second generation pollution of GM traits takes place. They insist that terminator seeds would only be used for non-food crops.

Their efforts to force a bill to this effect through Congress, ongoing since 2007, have been slowed due to resistance from environmentalists.

The proposed measure has been approved by the legislature’s agricultural commission, rejected by the environmental commission, and now sits in the justice and citizenship commission. It is likely to go to a full Congressional vote, where it could be passed as early as next Tuesday, or soon after the Christmas recess.

Environment groups say there would be global consequences. “Brazil is the frontline. If the agro-industry breaks the moratorium here, they’ll break it everywhere,” said Maria José Guazzelli, of Centro Ecológico, which represents a coalition of Brazilian NGOs.

This week they presented a protest letter signed by 34,000 people to thwart the latest effort to move the proposed legislation forward. “If this bill goes through, it would be a disaster. Farmers would no longer be able to produce their own seeds. That’s the ultimate aim of the agro-industry,” she said.

The international technology watchdog ETC, which was among the earliest proponents of a ban on terminator technology in the 1990s, fears this is part of a strategy to crack the international consensus.

“If the bill is passed, [we expect] the Brazilian government to take a series of steps that will orchestrate the collapse of the 193-country consensus moratorium when the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meets for its biennial conference in Korea in October 2014,” said executive director Pat Mooney.

But Eduardo Sciarra, Social Democratic party leader in the Brazilian Congress, said the proposed measure did not threaten farmers because it was intended only to set controlled guidelines for the research and development of “bioreactor” plants for medicine.

“Gene use restriction technology has its benefits. This bill allows the use of this technology only where it is good for humanity,” he said.

The technology was developed by the US Department of Agriculture and the world’s largest seed and agrochemical firms. Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont together control more than 60% of the global commercial seed market and 76% of the agrochemical market. All are believed to hold patents on the technology, but none are thought to have developed the seeds for commercial use.

Massive protests in the 1990s by Indian, Latin American and south-east Asian peasant farmers, indigenous groups and their supporters put the companies on the back foot, and they were reluctantly forced to shelve the technology after the UN called for a de-facto moratorium in 2000.

Now, while denying that they intend to use terminator seeds, the companies argue that the urgent need to combat climate change makes it imperative to use the technology. In addition, they say that the technology could protect conventional and organic farmers by stopping GM plants spreading their genes to wild relatives – an increasing problem in the US, Argentina and other countries where GM crops are grown on a large scale.

A Monsanto spokesman in Brazil said the company was unaware of the developments and stood by a commitment made in 1999 not to pursue terminator technology. “I’m not aware of so-called terminator seeds having been developed by any organisation, and Monsanto stands firmly by our commitment and has no plans or research relating to this,” said Tom Helscher.

On its website, however, the company’s commitment only appears to relate to “food crops”, which does not encompass the tree and medicinal products under consideration in Brazil.

• Additional research by Anna Kaiser

Background to a controversy

Ever since GM companies were found to be patenting “gene-use restriction” or “terminator” technologies in the 1990s, they have been accused of threatening biodiversity and seeking to make farmers dependent on big industry for their livelihoods.

In many developing countries, where up to 80% of farmers each year choose their best plants and save their own seed, terminator technology is a byword for all genetic modification, raising fears that sterile GM strains could contaminate wild plants and regular crops – with devastating consequences.

The GM companies, which claimed in the 1990s that they wanted to introduce the seeds only to stop farmers stealing their products, were forced to shelve the technology in the face of massive protests in India, Latin Amercia and south-east Asia.

In the face of growing international alarm, the 193 countries signed up to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity unanimously agreed in 2000 that there should be a de facto international moratorium. This was strengthened at the Conference of the Parties in 2006, under the presidency of Brazil.

Since then, the moratorium has held firm. But the GM companies have shifted their arguments, saying that gene-use restriction technologies now allow seeds to reproduce, but could “switch off” the GM traits. This, they argue, would reduce the possibility of the seeds spreading sterility. In addition, they say the technology could protect organic and conventional farmers from the spread of transgenes to wild relatives and weeds, which plagues GM farmers in the US and elsewhere.

The fear now is that the global moratorium could quickly unravel if Brazil, one of the most important agricultural countries in the world, overturns its national law to ban terminator technology. Other countries, pressed strongly by the powerful GM lobby, would probably follow, leading inevitably to more protests.

Leave a comment

Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, Forests, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Indigenous Peoples, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

The tree of knowledge of good and evil: Comments needed against GE Apple trees

By Dale Wiehoff, December 13, 2013  Think Forward

It’s common to make biblical references when we want to underscore how ancient something is, but in the case of apples, we know they’ve been around for a very long time. Originating in Central Asia, hybrid varieties propagated through grafting were well established over 6,000 years ago. Today there are over 7,500 cultivars world-wide. Despite the range, diversity and quantity of apples produced in the world, however, Malus domestica apparently isn’t measuring up to the modern consumer’s expectations. At least that’s what Neal Carter, president of Okanagan Specialty Fruits thinks. He has developed genetically engineered Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples that won’t turn brown when the flesh is exposed to air. Carter isn’t alone in searching for technological improvements to the apple. Nanotech coatings to keep fruits like apples, pears and mangos firm are already in use.

On December 16, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will close the final public comment period on the application for Neal Carter’s apples. In November, APHIS released a report saying his “Arctic” apples don’t pose any risks. Given the Obama Administration’s love of all things genetically engineered, it would be surprising if the USDA doesn’t approve genetically engineered apples. The USDA has decided that the issue of genetically engineered food is a matter to be determined by the “market.” Forget that every poll taken finds that consumers don’t want to eat genetically engineered apples, that the major apple producer associations say they don’t want them, and that the fast food industry which Neal Carter claims is the market for his apples say they won’t use them. It’s not too late to comment. Let APHIS knowwhat you think about genetically modified apples.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Forests, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering

Fate of Pro-Terminator Bill Uncertain

Brazil’s Judiciary Commission in Confusion: Charges, Counter-Charges and Confrontations

11 December 2013

Confronted with 35,000 institutional and individual signatures on a petition growing by several hundred an hour, Brazil’s Judiciary Commission agreed to take the Pro-Terminator Bill off the agenda this week leaving open the possibility that the bill will not be passed until Congress reconvenes in early February. However, the Judiciary Commission also determined to sit again next Tuesday and could continue meeting even Wednesday and Thursday before adjourning for Christmas. The Chair of the Commission has reiterated his commitment to block the contentious bill but CSO observers understand that a majority of Commission members are in favor of the suicide seed legislation and could, regardless of a formal agenda, call for a vote at any meeting. Brazilian allies both in the Commission and among the civil society organizations attending the negotiations say that representatives and government officials have been shocked by the scale in ferocity of global opposition to the proposed legislation.

“There is no reason to trust this process or reduce our pressure,” says Maria José Guazzelli of Centro Ecológico, “although the government and commission have been taken aback by our opposition, they could pass the bill at almost any moment. If the vote doesn’t come before Friday, December 20, we will have a breathing space until February but anything could happen next week and everything could happen in February.”

Continue reading

Leave a comment

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

Urgent! Brazil to vote on Terminator to allow use of GE Trees

Brazilian Commission to “Terminate” Seeds This Week
Submitted on 10 December 2013

Please sign on to the petition below

After promising on World Food Day (October 16) to block legislation that would legalize the planting of Terminator seeds in Brazil, the country’s Judicial Commission is set to approve suicide seeds as a Christmas gift to Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta.

Entrega 3Intense internal and external pressure in mid-October forced the Brazilian Congress to pull back from adopting pro-Terminator legislation, and the Judicial Commission’s Chair pledged never to allow legislation while at his post. Now, the same chair will entertain a motion Wednesday to accept Terminator seeds, making Brazil the first country in the world to defy a 13-year-old UN moratorium on the use of the technology. “If the Commission passes the bill this week,” says Centro Ecológico’s Maria José Guazzelli, “the Congress could make it law after it reconvenes in February. While most of Brazil is celebrating a Christmas birth, the seed multinationals will be celebrating the death of the 10,000-year right of farmers to save seeds.”

If the bill is passed this week (the Judicial Commission meets Wednesday and Thursday), ETC Group expects the Brazilian government to take a series of incremental steps that will orchestrate the collapse of the 193-country consensus moratorium when the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meets for its biennial conference in Korea in October 2014:

First, the government will announce that adoption by the Judicial Commission does not necessarily mean adoption by the Congress. Next, the government will announce that it will limit, through regulation, the application of Terminator technologies to special circumstances and repeat its long-standing support of the UN moratorium. Later, the government will agree that Terminator seeds can be used on GM trees to prevent widespread contamination in the Amazon. This will be described as an environmentally beneficial initiative, disguising the intent to allow the Amazon’s biodiversity to be replaced with GM tree plantations.

Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta – all of whom have pledged to never sell Terminator seeds to farmers – will express their sympathy for the government’s difficult situation regarding the spread of GM tree pollen and agree to act responsibly. Although the 3 companies that control 54% of global commercial seed sales all have a stable of Terminator patents, they will move cautiously to multiply Terminator seeds and prepare them for market over the next 2-3 years.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Pollution, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Beware of Genetically Engineered Trees

By Debbie Barker and Martha Crouch, Nov. 13, 2013, The Progressive

We should not let parts of the United States get overrun by genetically engineered trees.

But that is what is at risk today.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering whether to allow unrestricted planting of the first genetically engineered forest tree in the United States: eucalyptus engineered by ArborGen to grow in a colder climate. If approved, this would allow eucalyptus to be grown throughout a large part of the Southeast for the first time, where short-rotation plantations would be established to provide pulp for paper and biomass for energy.

ArborGen claims that its freeze-tolerant genetically engineered eucalyptus will grow faster and produce more wood per acre than either pine plantations or natural forests. The company stands to make a fortune if its request is approved. It predicts that its profits would increase from $25 million to $500 million in five years.

The burgeoning demand for hardwood pellets could further boost ArborGen’s profits. The United States is the largest exporter of wood pellets, shipping them to the European Union to co-fire power plants in mandated efforts to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions and mitigate climate change. Although this sounds like a boon to the environment, studies show that while wood pellet biomass can lower sulfur dioxide emissions, other pollutants increase. And burning wood pellets may not lower overall greenhouse gas emissions as promised.

Growing genetically engineered eucalyptus presents other environmental problems.

For example, a U.S. Forest Service environmental assessment reported that these newfangled trees would use up at least twice as much water as native trees in the Southeast, potentially squeezing a region already experiencing water scarcity.

Eucalyptus, a highly flammable tree, also could increase risks from wildfires.

Proposed plantation management practices include use of pesticides, fertilizers and heavy equipment with negative impacts on water and soil.

And creatures that depend on natural forests will find little of use in monocultures of non-native eucalyptus — no nutritious nuts and berries, or edible leaves, to eat.

In the end, plantations stocked with genetically engineered trees could replace more biologically diverse landscapes, while also putting remaining forest ecosystems at risk.

Before taking this new path through the woods, we need long-term, comprehensive testing and analyses to determine whether genetically engineered trees lead to a sustainable future for all or simply to short-term profits for a few.
——

Debbie Barker is the international director of the Center for Food Safety, and the editor and co-author of the group’s new report, “Genetically Engineered Trees: The New Frontier of Biotechnology.” Martha Crouch is a former professor of plant molecular biology and an independent science consultant for this report. The authors can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org. Copyright Debbie Barker and Martha Crouch.

Photo: Flickr user Karen, creative commons licensed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Forests, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture

Sojourner Truth show Earth Minute on U Florida censorship of GE trees talk

Global Justice Ecology Project teams up weekly with Pacifica’s Sojourner Truth show hosted by Margaret Prescod to cover important news about the environment.  Every Tuesday we produce an “Earth Minute” and each Thursday an “Earth Watch” interview segment with an activist from the front lines of the battle to protect mother Earth.

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Earth Minute, Earth Radio, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Greenwashing, KPFK, Political Repression, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests