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Press Release: Organizations Renew Demand to UN for Global Ban on GM Trees

World Rainforest Movement, Global Justice Ecology Project, Global Forest Coalition, Biofuelwatch, Campaign to Stop GE Trees

Joint Press Release
2 October 2012

Organizations Renew Demand to UN for Global Ban on GM Trees

Amsterdam, Netherlands / Montevideo, Uruguay /Buffalo, NY, US–At the Meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hyderabad, India [1], civil society organizations [2] released a letter today to the CBD Executive Secretary demanding a global ban on the release of genetically modified trees into the environment. [3]

One of the topics for discussion at this meeting are guidelines for the risk assessment and risk management of genetically modified (GM) trees. [4] The communiqué from the CBD Secretariat on 27 September 2012 stated the meeting will “adopt further decisions to contribute to ensuring the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology”. [5]

“Contributing to the safe transfer, handling and use ofGM trees directly contradicts the decision of the CBD’s Conference in Bonn, Germany in 2008”, stated Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project.  “That meeting reaffirmed the need to take a precautionary approach with regard to GM trees, and called for contained studies–not open air–of the risks and impacts of GM trees. [6] This came about in part due to a unanimous call by organizations and Indigenous Peoples groups, as well as the entire African delegation and other Parties to suspend the release of all GM trees into the environment”, she added.

Among the threats being faced by forest dependent communities, the conversion of forests and other ecosystems into industrial tree plantations is among the most serious.

“The forestry industry is involved in developing GM trees for use in its industrial plantations, in order to achieve trees that can grow faster; have reduced lignin content for production of paper or agrofuels; are insect or herbicide resistant; or can grow in colder temperatures”, stated Isis Alvarez, of Global Forest Coalition, who recently completed a briefing paper on GM trees in Latin America. [7]  “This research is aimed at increasing their own profits while exacerbating the already known and very serious impacts of large scale tree plantations on local communities and biodiversity”.

“These impacts include forced displacement of communities and destruction of native forests and biodiversity to make room for new tree plantations, and depletion of soils and ground water,” stated Teresa Perez of World Rainforest Movement.  “The use of GM trees will inevitably and irreversible lead to the invasion and contamination of wild forests with genetically engineered pollen and seeds, leading to unknown but predictably serious impacts on biodiversity.

“By creating guidelines that would allow industry to export GM tree seedlings all over the world the CBD is only considering the industry’s interests while jeopardizing the livelihoods of millions of people that depend on forests ecosystems”, she added.

The submitted letter ended: “We therefore demand the Convention on Biological Biodiversity BAN the release and transboundary movements of all GM TREES”.


Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project, +1.802.578.0477 an**@gj******.local

Teresa Perez, World Rainforest Movement, +5982.413.29.89 / +5982.410.09.85 te*****@wr*.uy

Isis Alvarez, Global Forest Coalition, +57.315.6484656  is**********@gl*******************.org

Dr. Rachel Smolker, Biofuelwatch, +1.802.482.2848  rs******@ri****.net

Notes to Editors:

1] The Conference is the sixth Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartegeña Protocol on Biosafety (COPMOP 6).

2] World Rainforest Movement, Global Justice Ecology Project, the Campaign to Stop Genetically Engineered Trees, Global Forest Coalition and Biofuelwatch [1,2] are civil society organizations that.  We are renewing the global call to stop all releases of GM trees into the environment. The extreme dangers to communities and biodiversity that are posed by GM trees are simply too serious to allow their commercial, large-scale release.

3] Open Letter: Groups Renew Demand for UN to Ban GE Trees

4] Genetically modified trees or GM trees are also known as genetically engineered trees or GE trees, as well as transgenic trees)

5] 27 September 2012 CBD Communique: United Nations meeting on the Safe Use of Living Modified Organisms opens Monday

6] With regard to Genetically Modified Trees, the Parties decide to:

(r)  Reaffirm the need to take a precautionary approach when addressing the issue of genetically modified trees;

(s)  Authorize the release of genetically modified trees only after completion of studies in containment, including in greenhouse and confined field trials, in accordance with the national legislation where existent, addressing long-term effects as well as thorough, comprehensive, science based and transparent risk assessments to avoid possible negative environmental impacts on forest biological diversity; [emphasis added]

The precautionary approach requires evidence of a new product’s safety before it is released into the environment.

7] GE Trees in South America Briefing Paper (a joint report written by Global Forest Coalition and Global Justice Ecology Project for the CBD conference) 2012

Additional Resources:

Analysis of the State of GE Trees and Advanced Bioenergy Global Justice Ecology Project, 2012

Bioeconomy vs Biodiversity: a new report by Global Forest Coalition and Biofuelwatch, 2012

GE Trees, Cellulosic Biofuels & Destruction of Forest Biological Diversity Global Justice Ecology Project, 2008

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