Spring 2007 Newsletter

Since Global Justice Ecology Project’s last E-Newsletter we have been extremely busy.  These short blurbs should paint the the picture.

Heartwood Annual Forest Council Keynote: Over Memorial Day weekend, GJEP Co-director Anne Petermann was the keynote presenter at the annual Forest Council of Heartwood, a network of forest protection organizations in the “heartland” of the U.S.–Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Kentucky.  Her talk was titled, “Zapatismo, the Art of Acting Locally to Change the World,” and addressed the importance of “grassroots globalization” as the counter to corporate globalization.  She stressed the need for international solidarity when confronting problems such as biofuels or genetically engineered trees that threaten communities around the world.  She also emphasized how the conversion of the tree plantations of the South into biofuels plantations is likely to increase pressure on the native forests of other regions of the US to supply the wood and pulp that are no longer being supplied by the plantations of the South.

Global Justice Ecology Project and The STOP Genetically Engineered Trees Campaign issued an URGENT ACTION ALERT! in regards to GE tree giant ArborGen.  ArborGen is seeking approval from the USDA for an outdoor field trial of cold-tolerant genetically engineered eucalyptus that flower and set seeds.

The field trial is located in Baldwin County, Alabama in an area prone to extreme wind events that could spread seeds from the eucalyptus for hundreds of miles. Eucalyptus is not native to the U.S. In other countries, eucalyptus is known to be extremely invasive. There is no way to know how the genetically engineered traits of the eucalyptus (which ArborGen will not reveal) could impact forests and wildlife.

This test plot is part of a plan by ArborGen to establish plantations of GE trees in in the southeastern U.S., for both agrofuels (biofuels) and paper pulp.  In addition, GJEP uncovered some startling information about a pathogenic fungus that is hosted by eucalyptus and can be deadly to humans. This could become a very serious health threat in the Southeast U.S. if large scale eucalyptus plantations are established.

Thanks to all who sent comments and signed petitions to USDA/APHIS in trying to help us stop this unprecedented threat to the forests of the Southeast!  Stay tuned, your help will be needed again in this struggle.

With regard to the above, we issued a PRESS RELEASE:  Effort Launched to Stop GE Eucalyptus (click here to view release). The release was picked up by UPI and other media outlets, receiving international attention.

In the midst of commenting on the ArborGen proposal to the USDA and gaining international attention on the issue, the STOP GE Trees Campaign website was hacked into and had to be shut down.  It finally is back up.  Also, on the same day, an online petition we were circulating for sign-ons against the ArborGen proposal, mysteriously disappeared for almost 24 hours.

World Bank Spring Meeting:  GJEP Co-director Orin Langelle went to Washington, DC and met with people from the Bank Information Center, 50 Years Is Enough, the Religious Working Group on the World Bank and IMF, and Oil Change International and discussed Agrofuels and Genetically Engineered Trees.  Langelle participated in a protest in front of the World Bank and attended Friends of the Earth’s “SUMMIT:  Climate Change and International Development” including a strategy session that followed.

Meetings on Agrofuels and Eucalyptus Plantations in Brazil:  Global Forest Coalition supported Petermann to attend meetings in Brazil on a Latin America campaign on agrofuels and on monoculture eucalyptus plantations.

Petermann brought to each of these meetings information on the plans by companies in the U.S. to establish plantations of GE trees trees in Brazil within the next year or two, for both agrofuels and paper pulp. Petermann also met with activists from around Latin America about campaigning against GE trees including a possible Latin American GE tree conference in the fall.  Also discussed was a major report on the subject of agrofuels, forests, GE trees and forest dwelling peoples that would be a joint effort between GJEP, GFC and World Rainforest Movement.  We further discussed translating the GE trees film “A Silent Forest” into Portuguese and distributing it widely throughout Latin America.

Finally, plans coming out of the eucalyptus monocultures meeting included potential actions in support of the UN CBD campaign for a global ban on GE trees that will center around the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in May of 2008 in Bonn.

While in Brazil, Petermann was quoted in France’s Le Monde newspaper.  In addition, an interview with Petermann about GE trees and biofuels in Brazil was published in the Brazilian MST magazine Brasil de Fato.

Agrofuels Leaflet Created:  Dr. Rachel Smolker, our staff volunteer Research Biologist wrote an 8 page booklet on the basic problems with agrofuels “From Meals to Wheels:  The Social & Ecological Catastrophe of Biofuels”  which was finished just in time for the meetings in Brazil on agrofuels and monoculture eucalyptus plantations.  It was translated into Spanish and Portuguese and was co-produed by GFC.  To view or download the leaflet, click here.

United Nations Forum on Forests (NYC) presentation on Biofuels Petermann and Langelle presented a powerpoint “Why Genetically Engineered Trees and Biofuels will Not Help Stop Global Warming” on the impacts of biofuels on native forests and forest dwelling peoples, including the connection to the issue of GE trees and why biofuels will not help stop global warming.

Co-participants in the side event were Andrei Laletin and Hubertus Samangun who also addressed the biofuels issue.  Over 30 people participated in the side event which included a lively discussion after the presentations.  Feedback from the participants was excellent.  In addition, Petermann and Laletin did interviews for UN Radio on the biofuels presentation.

In early May, GJEP was present in Boston for Biojustice 2007, an alternative to the Biotechnology Industry’s International Convention there.  Petermann spoke at the alternative festival, as well as the Earth Fair–an annual Boston celebration attended by thousands.

U.S. Social Forum:  Two of the proposals GJEP submitted to the USSF were accepted.  Our proposal with Dogwood Alliance and Rainforest Action Network “Large Scale Biofuels:  False Solution to Climate Change” was accepted as well as our submission “Roundtable Discussion on the Future of Biofuels” with Dogwood Alliance, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Friends of the Earth U.S., Friends of the MST, Grassroots International, Rainforest Action Network and a representative from the campaign at UC Berkeley that is opposing the $500 million biofuels research project funded by British Petroleum.  We also entered “A Silent Forest”, the GE trees film for the USSF Film Festival. The USSF takes place in Atlanta, Georgia from June 27th to July 1st.  Rachel Smolker and GJEP Board Member Soren Ambrose (Solidarity Africa Network, Kenya) will represent GJEP at the USSF.  USSF info: http://www.ussf2007.org/

Country Monitors:  In preparation for the May 2008 meeting in Bonn, Germany UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the GFC is monitoring 20 different countries to see how they are following the CBD’s recommendations.  GJEP has secured the services of Raul Benet in Mexico and Lynn Palmer in Canada to monitor those countries.

Group of 8 (G8) Protests:  Langelle leaves May 31st for Rostock, Germany.  In 2007 the summit of the eight richest and most powerful states in the world will take place in Heiligendamm near the City of Rostock on the Baltic coast of Germany. The politics of the G8 have triggered criticism and worldwide protest for a long time. During the 2007 summit in Germany this will be visible in its various forms. One important event will be the Alternative Summit to be held in Rostock from June 5 – 7.  Langelle will be on an agrofuels panel organized by Our World Is Not For Sale and he will present on the potential use of GE Trees in agrofuel production.

Community Organizer (Intern Position) Wanted:
We are currently seeking a Community Organizer Intern.  This position requires a minimum of 15 hours per week with a three month commitment. For more info, click here.

Top right: The photo was taken by Langelle at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston and used to create this illustration for Open Source Resistance.

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