Open Letter to UN CBD Scientific Body To Ban GE Trees

(Urgent from Global Justice Ecology Project and World Rainforest Movement of the Stop Genetically Engineered Trees Campaign)

If your organization can sign on to this letter please email Ana Filippini at World Rainforest Movement by February 13.

Open letter to all members of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA)

February, 2008

The undersigned, members of organizations from countries where research on the genetic modification of trees is being carried out, would like to express in this letter some of the reasons of our deep concern.

First of all, our concern is based on the fact that the genetic manipulation being undertaken is aimed at consolidating and further expanding a model of monoculture tree plantations that has already proven to result in serious social and environmental impacts in many of our countries.

In addition, the use of transgenic trees will further aggravate the proven impacts on water resources, since one of the traits that researchers are attempting to introduce is faster growth, which would mean even greater consumption of water by tree plantations.

At the same time, research is being undertaken to introduce genes that will make the trees more resistant to cold temperatures, for the purpose of planting them in colder regions and at higher altitudes in the mountains. This would lead to social and environmental impacts in areas that until now have not been affected by the impacts of current tree monocultures.

Research is also underway to develop trees with insecticide properties, in order to make them resistant to insects like the pine shoot moth (Ryacionia buoliana). This could result in the death of a large number of other insect species, with consequent impacts on local fauna’s food chains and perhaps even on the pollinization of native flora species that depend on those insects.
Research is also being undertaken to introduce genes that would increase the trees’ resistance to the herbicide glysophate, which would lead to even more serious social and environmental impacts, including the destruction of local flora and impacts on human health.

Additionally, research is being carried out to develop eucalyptus trees with a higher cellulose content for the production of cellulose for paper and for the production of ethanol. This would mean reducing the amount of lignin, the component that provides trees with structural strength, thus making them more susceptible to suffering -as well as causing- serious damage during wind storms.

It is important to note that the last Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-8) adopted decision VIII/19 (Forest biological diversity: implementation of the programme of work), which “recommends Parties to take a precautionary approach when addressing the issue of genetically modified trees.”

This decision is founded on COP-8’s recognition of “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.”

We therefore wish to call upon you to recommend  the Convention on Biodiversity Convention to definitely ban GE trees -including fields trials – because of the serious risks they pose on the Planet’s biological diversity.

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