Biotech Industry Designs Nightmare Biofuels: Vancouver conference to promote genetically engineered trees for fuel

For immediate release
September 10, 2008

Biotech Industry Designs Nightmare Biofuels
Vancouver conference to promote genetically engineered trees for fuel

Vancouver, BC, Canada – Today in Vancouver, major biotech corporations are meeting at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) conference to chart the use of genetically engineered (GE) crops and trees, as well as synthetic biology and nanotechnology, for fuel. The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) and STOP GE Trees Campaign are here with Greenpeace and the Society for a GE Free BC to oppose these “nightmare biofuels”. [1]

Attending the conference, CBAN Coordinator and member of the North American STOP GE Trees Campaign, Lucy Sharratt, says, “The biotech industry has pounced on the tremendous hype over biofuels to push out all their nightmarish technologies, even pushing the use of genetically engineered trees for transport fuel.”  [2]

“This industry conference lays bare the corporate agenda behind biofuels. The conference exposes new collaboration between the most powerful oil, biotech, seed chemical and forestry corporations,” said Sharratt. “Corporations are taking this chance to portray their technologies as a solution to global warming and the energy crisis. Monsanto is even using the food crisis to re-hash their old, failed promises to feed the world.” [3]

Corn ethanol and similar “first generation” biofuels are now widely seen as a failure because they do not reduce greenhouse gases but are, according to the World Bank, the major cause of the food crisis. So industry is promising so-called “second generation” biofuels that, critics’ say, and promise to be an even greater danger to the environment.

Today, ArborGen from the U.S., the world’s leading GE tree company will present at the conference. “The use of crops and trees for biofuel will quickly exacerbate global warming,” said Josh Brandon of Greenpeace. “Already, more forests around the world are being destroyed to make way for monoculture plantations of trees and crops for fuel.”

“We want no part of this nightmarish future where trees are genetically engineered to fill our gas tanks,” said Tony Beck of the Society for a GE Free BC. “The BC government should immediately legislate a ban on planting genetically engineered trees on crown land.” The BC Ministry of Forests currently states, “The Branch has ensured that no genetically modified tree seed has been registered or used in operational forest planting on crown land.” [4] Forty-seven groups in Canada signed a letter to the Environment Minister asking for an end to field trials of GE trees. There is currently one field trial of GE poplar in Quebec, run by a federal government research station.

Tonight Lucy Sharratt, Josh Brandon and others attending the conference will report to the public at an event planned for 7:30 PM at Heritage Hall 3102 Main Street in Vancouver.

CBAN claims this corporate push to use GE trees for biofuels is the main reason why Canada helped to stop an international moratorium on GE tree plantings at the UN this year. There is a strong international movement to stop GE trees, which are projected to increase deforestation of native forests through expanded monoculture tree plantations.

For more information: Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network/STOP GE Trees Campaign cell 613 263 4708 coordinator@cban.ca
Josh Brandon, Greenpeace cell 604-721-7493
Tony Beck, Society for a GE Free BC,

Notes to Editor:

[1] Biofuels are more commonly referred to as “agrofuels” (unsustainable biofuels) in the Global South.

[2] see “GE Trees, Cellulosic Biofuels & Destruction of Forest Biological Diversity”:

Click to access GE%20Trees=%20Cell%20Eth-comp.pdf

[3] Monsanto is the largest seed company in the world and about 90% of all GE acres are planted with Monsanto’s seeds. Monsanto and a handful of agricultural corporations including John Deere have set up the new industry lobby group ‘Alliance for Abundant Food and Fuel’ to promote the use of GE crops for both food and fuel.  URL

[4] http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hti/grm/generesource.htm

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