Global Justice Ecology Project’s E-Newsletter Summer 2007
Welcome to the bi-monthly email update from Global Justice Ecology Project. In this e-newsletter you will find some brief updates on our work from the last few months, to keep you up to date on the progress of our work.
USDA Approves 1st Flowering GE Tree (Eucalyptus): As published in the GJEP April-May E-Newsletter, we issued an urgent action alert against ArborGen’s request for a USDA permit for a test plot of flowering GE eucalyptus trees that generated hundreds of comments to the USDA. In July the USDA approved this permit, we are now investigating legal action with our allies at the Sierra Club.
USDA Legalizes GE Plum: You may recall last summer our campaign against the approval of the commercial release of a genetically engineered “Honeysweet” plum tree. We garnered large numbers of comments against this plum tree from all over the country raising the impacts this plum could have on everything from wild plums to pollinators (like bees and birds) to human health. As expected, the USDA recently approved this permit, (although comments against the GE Plum being legalized outnumbered industry’s pro-GE comments by 100 to 1!) We are communicating with our allies at the Center for Food Safety about a plan of action to stop this Franken-plum.
Proposed Controlled Field Release of GE Clones of Poplar: There is also a permit pending for a test plot of flowering GE poplar trees in Oregon. This test plot is especially dangerous because it threatens to contaminate wild poplar trees, which are an important part of forest ecosystems all over the U.S. and Canada. The effects of such contamination include impacts on soils, wildlife and forest-dependent species, as well as nearby human communities.
We will be hosting a national strategy retreat with members of the STOP GE Trees Campaign from all over the U.S. later this month. At this meeting we will be discussing these fast-moving developments regarding the GE trees issue and laying plans for countering them in the coming year and beyond.
Because the GE poplars and GE eucalyptus mentioned above are being promoted as sources for supposedly “green” agrofuels (biofuels), we will also discuss increasing our involvement with the international movement against agrofuels. This collaboration is crucial since agrofuels are being used as the main reason why we “need” genetically engineered trees.
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Recent accomplishments of Global Justice Ecology Project include:
Group of 8 (G8) Protests: In June, GJEP Co-Director Orin Langelle traveled to Rostock, Germany for the summit of the eight richest and most powerful countries. The politics of the G8 have triggered criticism and worldwide protest for many years. He spoke at the Alternative Summit as part of an agrofuels panel organized by Our World Is Not For Sale and took part in many of the marches and blockades. His photos will be posted on our website. Be sure to look for them!
With regard to this GE eucalyptus effort, we issued a PRESS RELEASE: Effort Launched to Stop GE Eucalyptus. The release was picked up by UPI and other media, receiving widespread attention.
In addition, while researching the potential threats from GE eucalyptus, our staff researcher Dr. Rachel Smolker uncovered a little known fungal pathogen associated with one of the eucalyptus species being engineered. Cryptococcus Gatti is deadly to humans who inhale its spores and eucalyptus trees are one of its preferred hosts. For this reason, in June we issued a press release on the potentially deadly threat of creating large-scale plantations of a tree that can host a deadly fungus.
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.
European Agrofuels Tour: In late June, Orin traveled to Europe to participate in a European tour on the impacts of biofuels. Global Forest Coalition, whom we are their North American Focal Point and Corporate Europe Observatory, brought 20 people from the Global South to speak to European activists as well as decisionmakers at the European and Dutch Parliaments as well as the UN about the impacts biofuels are having and will have on their homelands. Part of the outcome of this tour was the issuance of a call for a moratorium on the large-scale production of biofuels.
GJEP was present in Paris for the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity meetings: Following the European tour, GJEP Co-Director Anne Petermann met Orin in Paris for a meeting of the Scientific body of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. They met with groups from around the world on the issues of biofuels and GE trees, presented to UN delegates and hosted an international strategy meeting of the STOP GE Trees Campaign. During this meeting, GJEP partnered with World Rainforest Movement to issue an open letter to the UN body calling for a global moratorium on genetically engineered trees. (Please read more regarding the Paris meetings in the Toward Freedom article with attached photograph).
Phiona Hamilton-Gordon joins GJEP staff: Phiona joined us as our new Communications/Office Assistant in June. Her participation in the office has been invaluable in enabling us to more effectively participate in the global agrofuels movement, including our recent sojourn to Brussels, The Hague and Paris.
U.S. Social Forum: GJEP Biofuel Specialist Rachel Smolker participated in the USSF with Dogwood Alliance and Rainforest Action Network to present “Large Scale Biofuels: False Solution to Climate Change.” She and GJEP Board member Soren Ambrose facilitated a “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, RAN and a member of a campaign at UC Berkeley opposing a $500 million British Petroleum biofuels research project.
Radio interviews: As a result of media work done during the US Social Forum, Rachel and Anne have been guests on numerous radio programs around the country on the biofuels issue. You can listen to some of these interviews by going to the “global warming/biofuels” section of our website and clicking on the links. In addition, the rising urgency of the problem of agrofuels and GE trees has been leading to increasing media interest. We have reached millions of people with articles in Fortune Magazine, AlterNet, Toward Freedom and Coop America.
Solarfest: Anne and Rachel presented at Vermont’s renewable energy fair, “Solarfest” in July on the impacts of large-scale biofuel production, and warned the crowd that it is not a “green” alternative energy.
The recent completion and mailing of our 2006 annual report: You may have seen this already, if not, contact us and we will gladly send one to you. You can also find our 2006 annual report on this website. Just click here to find a PDF of the annual report that you can download.
•We launched this new website: Our old site was getting difficult to navigate due to all of the information we had posted over the years, so we designed this new site to be more user-friendly, have lots of photographs, and a clearer description of our work in several key areas. It also contains two of our powerpoints – on water privization and one on biofuels. We encourage you to take a tour.
We co-sponsored “Celebration for the Earth: The People Rise Up – Music, Art and Inspiration,” during Earth Week. This Will Miller Social Justice Lecture Series event, that regretfully didn’t make it into the April-May E-Newsletter, featured author, journalist and poet John Ross speaking about the recent uprising in Oaxaca, Mexico. It also featured troubadour Jim Page who entertained the packed crowd with his sharp wit and political songs.
We now have many more great things planned for the coming months. In addition to the aforementioned GE trees strategy retreat and various plans on the agrofuels issue, we will be:
Launching a New Photographic Exhibit: Orin will be working with GJEP Intern Hallie Boas to assemble a new exhibit of photographs from the last 4 years of GJEP’s work.
Global Warming Mobilization: GJEP is looking at ways to become more involved in the global warming movement. Our goal in this is to deepen the analysis of the existing global warming movement to move beyond false solutions like large-scale biofuels and carbon trading and look at the real root causes of climate change. This includes the World Bank and their policies that fund oil exploration, forest destruction, large dams and other projects that worsen global warming, and the massive overconsumption of resources by industrialized countries (with the USA leading the pack), to name two.
Anti-Plantations Meeting: Orin will be attending an important international meeting in South Africa on the impacts of large-scale tree plantations, organized by our partners at the World Rainforest Movement.
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change: We will be working with Global Forest Coalition and World Rainforest Movement to produce a joint report on the impacts of biofuels on forests and forest-dependent peoples. This major report will be produced in time for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (Bali, Indonesia in December 2007) and will debunk the notion of large-scale production of biofuels as a means to mitigate climate change. Anne and Orin will attend this UN meeting and are preparing a major PR campaign with our partners to accompany the release of the report.
The attached photograph appeared in Toward Freedom online magazine main feature (2 August) “GOVERNMENT EXPERTS AND ACTIVISTS EXPRESS STRONG CONCERNS ABOUT BIOFUELS,” Written by Global Justice Ecology Project.
Top right: Marcial Arias from Kuna Yala (Panama) makes a point at a meeting in The Hague, The Netherlands on an agrofuels tour immediately before the SBSTTA meetings in Paris. Photo: Langelle/Global Justice Ecology Project