Protesters denounce GE trees at a meeting of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative in 2011 (image by Anne Petermann/Global Justice Ecology Project)
The Global Justice Ecology Project’s Executive Director Anne Peterman was interviewed by Joan Brunwasser on OpEdNews yesterday on the dangers and drawbacks of the GE American chestnut tree being developed by researchers at SUNY Syracuse.
Interview by Joan Brunwasser, OpEdNews. 5 January 2015
JB: You’re up in arms against the humble chestnut tree. You recently wrote This Holiday Season say NO to GMO Chestnuts , a strong OpEd piece against it. I admit that I don’t know much about this subject and many of our readers are probably in the same boat. Would you educate us on the subject, please?
AP: Let me be clear first that my background is in forest protection. I have been working to protect the forests of the Northeast US and the world for the last 25 years. I started working on the threats posed by GE trees in 1999 because I worried about their impact on forests. The further I dug, the more concerned I became. So when we talk about the American chestnut tree, we need to understand that this tree was once a key part of the forest ecosystem in the Eastern US. There is an understandably strong desire to return it to that ecosystem. However, I do not agree with replacing wild American chestnut trees with genetically engineered facsimiles.
The reasons for concern about the GE chestnut are many, but one of the main problems is that the GE chestnut has been engineered with foreign DNA from wheat, a process which damages the genome and leads to numerous mutations. This means the engineered tree will likely have unanticipated and unpredictable consequences when released into a forest ecosystem. As we’ve seen time and again with GMO crops, these unanticipated consequences can be very damaging to biodiversity and wildlife, not to mention people. Just take a look at the iconic Monarch butterfly–it’s population is crashing due to the chemicals applied in abundance to herbicide resistant GMO crops. These herbicides are killing off the main food of the butterflies.
It is 21 years since the Zapatista Army of National Liberation rose up in Chiapas, Mexico encouraging the mobilization of people around the world against neoliberalism, or global capitalism. They have not gone away, but are continuing to organize in their communities alternatives to the suicidal dominant system.
During the holidays, a time of the iconic roasting of chestnuts, scientists and activists are raising alarms about these efforts to genetically engineer and widely release GE American chestnuts into U.S. forests. Syracuse.com recently reported in “Breakthrough at SUNY-ESF” that researchers at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry are growing 10,000 genetically engineered (GE) American chestnut trees to be distributed widely when approved.
The GMO chestnuts produced by these trees would be a new GMO food when concerns about GMOs and labeling are mounting.
Woman holds photo of baby whose condition is blamed on agrotoxins, during rally in Asunción, Paraguay, 3 Dec 2014. PhotoLangelle.org
This powerful photo essay came out of a recent trip to Paraguay made by GJEP Board Chair and photographer Orin Langelle and myself to explore, with others from 5 continents, the root causes of the global deforestation crisis. Paraguay makes a good case study of deforestation and its impacts, as this photo essay demonstrates.
“All signs show that Paraguay, both its territory and its population, are under attack by conquerors, but conquerors of a new sort. These new ‘conquistadors’ are racing to seize all available arable land and, in the process, are destroying peoples’ cultures and the country’s biodiversity — just as they are in many other parts of the planet, even in those areas that fall within the jurisdiction of ‘democratic’ and ‘developed’ countries. Every single foot of land is in their crosshairs. Powerful elites do not recognize rural populations as having any right to land at all.” – Dr. Miguel Lovera
Photographs by Orin Langelle. Analysis at the end of the essay by Dr. Miguel Lovera from the case study: The Environmental and Social Impacts of Unsustainable Livestock Farming and Soybean Production in Paraguay. Dr. Lovera was the President of SENAVE, the National Plant Protection Agency, during the government of Fernando Lugo.
Once again Greenpeace chose marketing over ethics in a deeply offensive and destructive action at a sacred site in Peru last week.
While Greenpeace ED Kumi Naidoo has made a videotaped apology for this action, I don’t buy it.
I personally witnessed Kumi’s questionable tactics at the UN Climate talks in Durban where he orchestrated a fake “arrest” with UN security so that the media would run photos of him being led out of the talks in handcuffs — another marketing ploy. How do I know this was a fake arrest? Because a colleague and I engaged in civil disobedience at the same action, refusing to comply with UN security, and were carried out of the talks and banned permanently from all future talks. But there were no handcuffs.
Kumi, on the other hand, worked hand in hand with security throughout the youth-led action to ensure the youth left in an orderly fashion.
Greenpeace International set off a firestorm in Peru last week, and not the kind it had hoped for. After a few of its members damaged, perhaps irreparably, one of the most important cultural heritage sites in the country, a debate is beginning over how to interpret the environmental groups offensive actions.
Ada from the Solomon Islands. If biomass energy is not stopped, her islands will continue to drown. Photo credit: GJEP-GFC
In this week’s Earth Minute, Anne Petermann reports from Asunción, Paraguay, where she participated in a series of meetings put together by Global Forest Coalition to discuss deforestation and its underlying drivers, including biofuels and wood-based bioenergy (which will some day include genetically engineered trees, if Brazil has its way), and all over the continent, but especially here in Paraguay, cattle ranching and the livestock industry.
GJEP partners with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK Los Angeles for weekly Earth Minutes on Tuesday and Earth Watch interviews on Thursday.
This exhibit went live on the Langelle Photography website on Saturday 30 November 2014, in time for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima, Peru that opened 1 December 2014.
The photographs document impacts of and resistance to climate change and false solutions, spanning five continents over more than 25 years.
A review of the exhibit by Jack Foran from The Public began:
Photojournalist Orin Langelle’s exhibit at his new ¡Buen Vivir! gallery at 148 Elmwood in Allentown takes on two enormous issues: world climate change—along with the criminality of its associated corporate denial and delay tactics—and the official media’s so-called “objectivity.”
by Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project
In a society rising up against the corporate capture of our food supply in the form of GMOs, a new untested and not-yet-approved GMO food is being promoted: the GMO chestnut.
A recent op-ed in the Washington Post, however, makes the silly assertion that this emerging new GMO food will be the answer to hunger and a step toward reconnecting with our food supply:
Repopulating our woods — and even our yards, our commons and our courthouse lawns — with [GE] American chestnuts would put a versatile, nutritious, easily harvested food source within reach of just about everyone. For those living on the margins, it could be a very real hedge against want. For everyone, it could be a hedge against distancing ourselves from our food, which can be the first step toward a diet low in the whole foods that virtually every public health authority tells us we should eat more of.
Really? A food source for the poor? People are going to be heading out with their burlap sacks collecting GMO chestnuts to roast, grind into flour or boil into candy? This is the answer to hunger? And what is the health impact of eating GMO chestnuts? Is this even being assessed? No.