Large Alliance of NGOs and Indigenous Peoples Calls for Ban on Genetically

For Immediate Release
4 July 2007

Large Alliance of NGOs and Indigenous Peoples Calls for Ban on Genetically Modified Trees for Biofuels

Paris, France–Over 50 Indigenous Peoples Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations involved in meetings surrounding the Convention on Biological  Diversity, presented an open letter today recommending a ban on Genetically Modified trees on the basis of their potential impacts on forest biological diversity.  They expressed their concern that the current biofuels boom and the rush for so-called second generation biofuels will lead to dangerous experiments with these trees. The document was presented to delegates attending the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA). SBSTTA is a subsidiary body of the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and advises the CBD on scientific and technical issues.

The letter, which was circulated by World Rainforest Movement, Global Justice Ecology Project and Global Forest Coalition, insisted on compliance by all countries with the precautionary approach in regard to GM trees, as agreed upon at the CBD’s 8th Conference of the Parties last year in Curitiba, Brazil.

Trees are being engineered with unnatural traits such as the ability to kill insects, or have reduced lignin.  Lignin is the substance in a tree that makes it strong and protects it from disease, fungus, wind and other environmental stresses.  The escape of these traits into forests via seed or pollen threatens to contaminate forests with these traits, which could disrupt forest ecosystems, damage biodiversity and wildlife, as well as potentially harming the health of nearby communities.  Trees can spread seeds and pollen for hundreds of kilometers.  Ironically, though GE trees threaten to worsen global warming by damaging the ability of natural forests to store carbon, companies propose to develop GE tree plantations as a source for biofuels.

World Rainforest Movement’s Ana Filippini said, “Countries are dangerously ignoring the precautionary approach as research in GM trees is currently being carried out in at least the following countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States.”

“Last week in the U.S., APHIS (the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service), a subsidiary body of the US Department of Agriculture, approved a request by GM tree corporation ArborGen to allow their field trial of genetically modified eucalyptus trees in Alabama to flower and produce seeds,” Anne Petermann of Global Justice Ecology Project stated.  “Similar permission is being sought for GM tree test plots in Brazil,” she added.

“With the current rush for agrofuels, companies and governments are looking to GM trees as potential source for future supplies of cellulosic ethanol”, concluded Simone Lovera of Global Forest Coalition. “This will have a devastating impact on forests and forest-dependent peoples all over the world.”

According to the Biotechnology and GMOs Information Website
http://gmoinfo.jrc.it/gmp_report.aspx?CurNot=B/FR/07/06/01, this month in France, the same country this SBSTTA is being held, the company INRA, will begin a study of transgenic poplar trees for bioethanol production. The five-year GM tree experiment will be located at the nursery of the Breeding Experimental Unit on the ground of the INRA-Orleans Centre located in Saint Cyr en Val, in France.

(Complete sign-on open letter with group signatories follows)

Open letter to SBSTTA on the issue of GM trees

The undersigned participants of SBSTTA or of meetings leading up to SBSTTA wish to share their concerns about the issue of genetically modified trees within the process of the Convention of Biological Diversity. As you know, the last Conference of the Parties passed Decision VIII/19, which recognized “the uncertainties related to the potential environmental and socio-economic impacts, including long-term and transboundary impacts, of genetically modified trees on global forest biological diversity, as well as on the livelihoods of indigenous and local communities, and given the absence of reliable data and of capacity in some countries to undertake risk assessments and to evaluate those potential impacts.”

Among other things, it recommended Parties “to take a precautionary approach when addressing the issue of genetically modified trees.”

The above recommendation seems to have been basically ignored by a number of countries, where either official research centers or private companies continue carrying out work on genetic modification of trees and are even planning to carry out field trials, such as the current case of the company ArborGen, which is seeking permission for field trials of flowering eucalyptus trees in the US.

Research in genetic modification of trees is currently being carried out -disregarding the COP’s decision- in at least the following countries Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States.

Given that the COP8 Decision gave SBSTTA the task of assessing °ßthe potential environmental, cultural, and socio-economic impacts of genetically modified trees on the conservation and sustainable use of forest biological diversity, and to report to the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties; and given that the rush to produce biofuels is being used to promote the rapid commercial development of genetically modified trees, we appeal to SBSTTA to:
– insist on compliance by all countries with the precautionary principle as agreed upon at COP8
– recommend a ban on GM trees on the basis of their potential impacts on forest biological diversity

Global Justice Ecology Project
World Rainforest Movement
Global Forest Coalition
Sobrevivencia/FOE Paraguay
STOP GE Trees Campaign, North America
NOAH-Friends of the Earth Netherlands
Africa-Europe F & J Network
Friends of the Earth Europe
Friends of the Earth Malaysia
CENSAT-Aguaviva   FOE Colombia
Indigenous Information Network, Kenya
Nordre Folkcenter for Renewable Energy, Denmark
Friends of the Siberian Forests, Russia
CELCOR/FOE Papua New Guinea
Pro REGENWALD, Germany
Robin Wood, Germany
Friends of the Earth-England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia
Comision Intereclesiastica de Justicia y Paz, Colombia
Consejo Comunitario de la Cuenca del Currarado
Ole Siosiomaga Society Incorporated (OLSSI) Samoa
Fundación para la Promocion del Conocimiento Indigena, Panama
ICTI-Tanibar, Indonesia
PIPEC, Pacific Indigenous Peoples Environment Coalition, New Zealand
FERN
International Alliance of the Indigneous and Tribal Peoples  of the Tropical
Forests
Corporate Europe Observatory
Greenpeace International
Ecologica Movement  BIOM, Kyrgyzatan
CORE – Centre for Organization Research & Education, Northeast Region India
EQUATIONS
Ecological Society of the Philippines
Timberwatch Coalition, South Africa
Forest Peoples Programme, UK
MST – Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement
Viola, Russia
Ecoropa, Germany
ETC Group
Asociación Indígena Ambiental
Umwelt-und Projehtwerhstatt, Germany
Global Environment Centre, Malaysia
Washington Biotechnology Action Council, U.S.
BUKO Campaign against Biopiracy, Germany
The Gaia Foundation, UK
HATOFF Foundation, Ghana
Tebteba Foundation, Philippines
Nature Tropicale, Benin (West Africa)
Jeunes Volontairs pour l’Environnement, Togo
Biofuelwatch, UK
Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum
NABU – Nature and Conservation Union, Germany
BUND – Friends of the Earth Germany
Indigenous Network on Economics and Trade, Canada

contact:

Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project, +33 (0)66.929.4560 globalecology@gmavt.net

Simone Lovera, Global Forest Coalition, +31 (0)62.245.7495
simonelovera@yahoo.com

Ana Filippini, World Rainforest Movement anafili@wrm.org.uy

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