Tag Archives: GE Trees

GM Eucalyptus: Brazil considers authorizing GM Trees in contravention of COP9 Decision

The Campaign to STOP GE Trees (Coordinated by GJEP) is actively campaigning to prevent the commercialization of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in Brazil.  A similar proposal is under consideration in the US.  Please sign our petition to the USDA demanding a ban on GE trees here: http://globaljusticeecology.org/petition/

–The GJEP Team

By Jay Burney, June 2014. Source: CBD Alliance

stopge

 

In Brazil, Futuragene, a UK-registered company wholly owned by Brazilian timber giant Suzano, has submitted a request to CTNBio to commercially release genetically modified eucalyptus trees in Brazil.

CTNBio is the governmental institution charged with authorizing commercial release of GMOs in Brazil. Hundreds of social and ecological justice organizations representing millions of people joined forest protection groups from around the world to reject the commercial release of GM trees due to their potentially serious negative effects on biodiversity and human rights, as well as the complete lack of independent assessments of their social, ecological and economic risks. Continue reading

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Sign on to STOP GE Trees in Brazil!

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Please sign your organization onto the letter below protesting the legalization of genetically engineered trees in Brazil. To sign on, please send your name, organization and country to the following address: info@globaljusticeecology.org  before June 15th.

Campaign to STOP GE Trees Sign On Statement to Support the call by Brazilian and Latin American groups to reject Genetically Engineered eucalyptus trees

(Sign on before 15 June!)
FuturaGene, a biotechnology firm owned by Brazilian pulp and paper company Suzano, has requested authorization from the Brazilian Biosafety Commission (CTNBio) for the commercial release of its genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in Brazil.A letter has been issued by Brazilian and Latin American organizations (including CEPEDES; Terra de Direitos and the Latin American Network against Plantations) to CTNBio to urge them to deny this approval. As the Brazilian Open Letter (attached below) explains, if approved, use of GE eucalyptus trees will aggravate the already well-known negative impacts that non-GE industrial eucalyptus tree plantations already pose to communities´ livelihoods.

We ask your organization to sign on to the statement below in support of this Brazilian letter, which will be sent to CTNBio, the Brazilian governmental institution in charge of authorizing the release of GMOs. Their letter expresses deep concern and urges the CTNBio not to authorize the commercial release of GE eucalyptus by Suzano/FuturaGene.

To sign on in support of this letter protesting the legalization of genetically engineered trees, please send us your name, organization and country to the following address: info@globaljusticeecology.org  before June 15th.

Thank you,

The Campaign to STOP GE Trees
 including Biofuelwatch, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Global Justice Ecology Project, Indigenous Environmental Network, World Rainforest Movement

Statement in Support of the “Open Letter to CTNBio”:

The Campaign to Stop GE Trees, an international coalition of 248 groups from 49 countries, founded in 2004, supports a global ban on commercial deregulation of genetically engineered trees (also known as genetically modified trees) based on serious concerns about their impacts on biodiversity and human rights. The Campaign supports the position expressed herein, in solidarity with Brazilian and Latin American groups, calling upon CTNBio to pay heed to public resistance to GE trees and reject Futuragene’s request for commercial approval of GE trees.

The Campaign is joined by the undersigned organizations from around the world that endorse the call for a global ban on the release of genetically engineered trees into the environment, as well as those scientists and organizations that are calling for a moratorium on the release of GE trees until they are proven to have no damaging social or ecological impacts. As no such proof of safety currently exists, but there is significant evidence to the contrary, the release of GE trees must be stopped.

It is, for example, well-documented that increasing the growth rates of plantation trees (as Suzano has done with their GE eucalyptus
trees) results in the rapid expansion of plantations, not the opposite. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization between the years 1990 and 2010, the average yield of wood from plantations doubled, yet the amount of land occupied by those plantations increased over 60% from 97 million to 153 million hectares.

[http://www.fao.org/docrep/013/i1757e/i1757e.pdf, Table 5.5, page 94]

Additionally, in 2008, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, to which Brazil is a signatory, called for the application of the Precautionary Approach regarding GE trees, and a comprehensive and transparent assessment of their long-term social and ecological risks prior to any open release into the environment. If CTN Bio approves the commercialization of the GE eucalyptus in question, this decision would directly contravene decision IX/5(1) of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

The decision IX/5 (1) of the UN CBD Conference of the Partiesfrom 2008 states <http://www.cbd.int/decision/cop/?id=11648>

The Conference of the Parties, Urges Parties to:

(r) Reaffirm the need to take a precautionary approach when addressing the issue of genetically modified trees;

(s) Authorize the release of genetically modified trees only after completion of studies in containment, including in greenhouse and confined field trials, in accordance with national legislation where existent, addressing long–term effects as well as thorough, comprehensive, science-based and transparent risk assessments to avoid possible negative environmental impacts on forest biological diversity; [1]/

(t) Also consider the potential socio-economic impacts of genetically modified trees as well as their potential impact on the livelihoods of indigenous and local communities;

(u) Acknowledge the entitlement of Parties, in accordance with their domestic legislation, to suspend the release of genetically modified trees, in particular where risk assessment so advises or where adequate capacities to undertake such assessment is not available;

(v) Further engage to develop risk-assessment criteria specifically for genetically modified trees;

(w) Note the results of the Norway – Canada Workshops on Risk Assessment for emerging applications for Living Modified Organisms (UNEP/CBD/BS/COP-MOP/4/INF/13);

(x) Welcome the decision of the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol to establish an Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Risk Assessment and Risk Management that is also mandated to address the issue of genetically modified trees;

(y) Collaborate with relevant organizations on guidance for risk assessment of genetically modified trees and guidance addressing potential negative and positive environmental and socio – economic impacts on the conservation and sustainable use of forest biodiversity associated with the use of genetically modified trees;

(z) Provide the available information and the scientific evidence regarding the overall effects of genetically modified trees on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity to the Executive Secretary for dissemination through the clearing-house mechanism;

[1]/ Where applicable, risks such as cross-pollination and spreading of seeds should be specifically addressed.

We therefore support the call to CTNBio and the Brazilian government made by Brazilian and Latin American groups to reject the application of Futuragene to commercially plant genetically engineered eucalyptus trees.

Signed:

The Campaign to STOP GE Trees (International)

Global Justice Ecology Project (US)

EcoNexus (Europe, UK)

Indigenous Environmental Network (North America)

Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (Canada)

Biofuelwatch (US, UK)

World Rainforest Movement

For your information

Brazilian OPEN LETTER TO BE SENT TO CTNBio

OPEN LETTER TO BE SENT TO CTNBio

To: Brazilian National Technical Biosafety Commission (CTNBio)

We, the undersigned, have been informed that FuturaGene, a biotechnology firm wholly owned by the pulp and paper company Suzano, has submitted a request for commercial planting of its yield enhanced genetically modified eucalyptus trees.

Suzano/FuturaGene, as well as other companies like Fibria (ex-Aracruz) and ArborGen, have been conducting research and field experiments on GM Trees for years.

Suzano/FuturaGene´s interest has been to increase the productivity of their tree plantations. They argue that their new GM tree will result in a 20% increase in productivity and by doing so will increase “competitiveness and environmental and socio-economic gains through higher productivity using less land and therefore overall lower chemical inputs and lowered carbon release, as well as making land available for food production or conservation and enhancing the income of outgrowers.” (1) These myths do not stand up to real facts and are addressed below.

GM TREES WILL ADD TO THE PROBLEMS CAUSED BY INDUSTRIAL TREE PLANTATIONS, NOT REDUCE THEM

The use of faster growing GM trees in industrial plantations will exacerbate the already well-known negative social and environmental impacts caused by industrial tree plantations while introducing yet further impacts and knock-on effects due to the additional risks inherent to genetic engineering.

Industrial tree plantation companies have long promised that gains in productivity would lead to less land use. This is a myth. In Brazil, for example, where the productivity of monoculture tree plantations per hectare increased from 27 m3/ha/year in the 1980s to 44 m3/ha/year currently, the area covered by plantations has increased from about 4 million hectares at the end of the 1980s to more than 7.2 million hectares today. Historically, there is thus no evidence that in Brazil, increases in productivity led to less land being occupied by industrial tree plantations. A newly formed association, Indústria Brasileira de Árvores (Ibá), representing the Brazilian industrial tree plantation industry states that they intend to double the area of industrial tree plantations to 14 million hectares by 2020.

SUZANO SEEKS TO EXPLOIT NEW MARKETS FOR PLANTATION TREES

Suzano recently opened a new pulp mill in the state of Maranhão with an 1.5 million tons/year capacity. Huge areas of land covered with tree monocultures will be needed to fulfill Suzano’s wood demand for pulp, as well as for an added demand, in particular its plans to explore new uses of its wood with a project in the same state to produce and export wood pellets for energy production, to cofire with coal in the UK. The use of biomass for industrial scale energy production remains highly controversial, and its negative social, environmental and climate impacts have been documented widely. Both the pulp and wood pellet projects aim solely at profiting from new market opportunities, which is the mission of Suzano.

BRAZILIAN PEOPLE AND ENVIRONMENT WOULD PAY THE COSTS

While profits from this expansion accrue to Suzano shareholders, the social, ecological and economic costs as well as increased risk to regional food sovereignty and health will be borne by the Brazilian public, and local communities surrounded by plantations in particular.
Many and serious conflicts over access to land already exist, and living conditions of communities surrounded by Suzano’s operations have deteriorated to the point that communities are now struggling to guarantee their food sovereignty and are increasingly at risk of losing their territories (2) .

GM CROPS LEAD TO INCREASED APPLICATIONS OF AGROTOXINS

Further, there is no plausible reason to expect that the use of “chemical inputs”, including agrotoxins, will decrease as a result of planting GM trees. On the contrary, it will increase with the increasing occupation of land which is planned to take place and the intensification of growing cycles and the ensuing nutrient depletion of soil and land. Brazil, sadly, is already the world’s leading consumer of agrotoxins, causing injury to hundreds if not thousands of victims per year, putting further strain on already insufficient public health provision. Industrial tree monocultures, lacking biodiversity, and promoted at very large scale, will augment the application of agrotoxins by huge amounts. The argument used by the GM technology lobby that the introduction of GM crops—such as soy and maize—results in less use of pesticides and fertilizers has already been proven to be false. In countries including Brazil, Argentina, and the United States – front-runners in GM soy & maize production—research has shown not a decrease, but rather an alarming increase in the use of agrotoxins (3).

DAMAGING SOIL AND WATER SUPPLIES

Genetically modifying trees to make them grow faster, while planting them on a continuously expanding portion of the land in ever larger industrial tree plantations, will only lead to further depletion of soil nutrients and fresh water. This is especially true for eucalyptus trees, already notorious for their voracious water consumption, which has been shown to result in the overall drying out of surrounding soils, springs and waterways. Communities living around non-GM tree plantations within and outside of Brazil have already widely reported water shortage and soil depletion. The introduction of faster growing GM Trees will only further aggravate this situation.

UNEXPECTED NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF GM CROPS COULD BE EVEN WORSE IN GM TREES

Serious uncertainties exist with respect to the potential environmental and socio-economic impacts of genetically engineered trees. Unexpected effects have already been reported for GM food crops, including for example the proliferation of herbicide resistant weeds, the emergence of secondary pests decimating crops, altered fertility such as higher rates of outcrossing, as well as increased allergenicity. Given the long and often complex life-cycle of trees and their interaction with biodiversity, predicting the outcomes and impacts of GM trees is practically impossible. While eucalyptus is non-native to Brazil, it is widely planted, and contamination of non-GM eucalyptus trees by GM eucalyptus is another serious risk, although FuturaGene, paradoxically, welcomes it (4). Will it alter invasiveness, attract new pests, weaken or deter predators? Such questions have neither been asked nor are there data to provide answers. The catalog of risks is high.

Based on the history of industrial tree plantations and the introduction of GM crops in general, we object to and deny industry’s claim that society as a whole would benefit from the commercial release and planting of GM trees. Existing evidence points squarely into the opposite direction. The only benefit we see from this new high-risk technology with unknown future impact (and possible associated incalculable cost) is that of increased profits to Suzano’s shareholders.

WE URGE NOT TO AUTHORIZE THE COMMERCIAL RELEASE OF GM TREES

For the aforementioned reasons, scientists, lawyers and organizations around the world are calling for a global moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified trees, due to their unknown but potentially severe social and ecological impacts and incalculable economic risks, which would overwhelmingly accrue to the public.

Therefore, the undersigned organizations and people wish to express their deep concern and urge the CTNBio not to authorize the commercial release of yield enhanced GE eucalyptus by Suzano/FuturaGene or by any other company that also has, or will present in future, a request for such a release.

Signatures follow

Notes

1- See FuturaGene web site at http://www.futuragene.com

2 -
http://wrm.org.uy/pt/livros-e-relatorios/plantacoes-de-eucalipto-para-energia-o-caso-da-suzano-no-baixo-parnaiba-maranhao-brasil/

3 – See
http://www.gmwatch.org/files/GMsoy_Sust_Respons_SUMMARY_SPA_v1.pdf

4 – See
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/nov/15/gm-trees-bred-world-energy


http://www.wrm.org.uy

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

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

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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