Tree Biotech Conference Disrupted Amidst Week of Protest

For Immediate Release

7 June 2017

Concepción, Chile Today the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) 2017 Tree Biotechnology Conference was forced to cancel its field trip to the University of Concepción’s Center for Biotechnology amidst protests on campus against genetically engineered (GE) trees.

This week of protest in Concepción is the latest in a global, years-long campaign to end the threat of GE trees. On Wednesday, dozens of students and allies held a demonstration outside of UC’s Center for Biotechnology, denouncing the university’s research on GE trees as only benefiting corporate interests, and demanding an end to the monoculture forestry model.

This is the second time the conference was targeted for protest. On Monday, demonstrators marched on the opening session of IUFRO, which was hosted by Arauco and regional government spokespeople.

Demonstrators argue that GE varieties of pine and eucalyptus would exacerbate the social and ecological crises already caused by the monoculture model, including record wildfires this past January that killed 11 people and displaced thousands.

Concepción is in the center of the Bío Bío region, which was hit hardest by the wildfires.

Prior to the aborted field trip, it was announced that controversial Belgian tree engineer Wout Boerjan would not be presenting at his session during the IUFRO conference and was not in attendance. At the IUFRO Tree Biotechnology conference in 2013 in Asheville, NC (U.S.), Boerjan’s presentation was disrupted by protesters. Following the disruption, the IUFRO field trip in Asheville was also cancelled due to fear of protest. The Field Liberation Movement is actively opposing Boerjan’s field trials of GE poplars at Ghent University in Belgium.

The Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees [1] is in Concepción to monitor the conference sessions and to be in solidarity with groups organizing a week of counter-conference activities in the city.

Contact:

Keith Brunner, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, +1.802.363.9615 keith@biofuelwatch.org.uk (on site – English and Spanish)

Tess Ipolito, Campaign to STOP GE Trees Media Coordinator, +1.716.867.4080 tess@globaljusticeecology.org (in U.S. – English)

Note:

[1] The Campaign to STOP GE Trees is an international coalition of organizations dedicated to protecting forests, biodiversity and forest dependent communities through the demand for a global rejection of all genetically engineered trees. Organizations in the Campaign include Biofuelwatch (U.S. and UK), Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Field Liberation Movement (Belgium), Friends of the Earth Melbourne (Australia), GE Free New Zealand, Global Justice Ecology Project (U.S.), Indigenous Environmental Network (North America), OLCA: Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales (Chile), and World Rainforest Movement (Brazil and Uruguay).
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