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Release: Forest Stewardship Council Courts Controversy by Considering Lifting GMO Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  10/11/2022                  CONTACT: (314) 210-1322

Forest Stewardship Council Courts Controversy by Considering Lifting Genetic Engineering Ban

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is courting controversy by seemingly contemplating lifting a long-standing ban on the development and use of GE trees by their members due to the risks they pose to biodiversity, health of forests and communities. Recently the FSC Board developed what it calls a “learning process” that weakens the ban on GE tree development which has brought the official condemnation of many organizations around the world.
Last week, The Campaign to Stop Genetically Engineered Trees announced that 93 environmental and social justice organizations from 28 countries had called on the Board and membership of the Forest Stewardship Council to continue prohibiting the use of genetically engineered trees and to refrain from engaging with field experiments. This follows on from an open letter to the FSC sent in December 2021 from 217 organizations in 74 countries calling on FSC to disassociate itself from any GE tree research activities and continue to ban GE trees.

Another 80,000 people have signed an active Rainforest Rescue petition demanding the Brazil government prevent the use of herbicide-resistant genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in response to that country giving the Suzano pulp and paper company – a member of the FSC – permission to plant them.

Under the current FSC ban, if Suzano chose to commercially grow their GE eucalyptus trees, they would have to leave the FSC, seriously impacting their markets. In 2012, Stanley Hirsch, the CEO of Suzano’s biotech subsidiary FuturaGene, called the FSC a “market barrier” to GE trees.

“The timing of this so-called ‘learning process’ is more than coincidental,” said Anne Petermann of Global Justice Ecology Project. “There is a push by Suzano and other corporate interests to overturn bans and regulations on GE trees. These, however, are crucial to protect forest biodiversity and vulnerable Indigenous and other forest dependent communities from the unknown risks of trees genetically engineered with traits aimed at increasing corporate profit. Removal of the FSC ban is seen as a major priority for industry’s goal of converting biodiverse wild forests into high-profit plantations of GE trees.”

In September, The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network and the Campaign to STOP GE Trees released a major report “The Global Status of  Genetically Engineered Tree Development.”

In a September press release about the report, Lucy Sharrat of CBAN stated that “Development of genetically engineered trees is advancing despite the serious risks to our forests and continued opposition around the world,” adding, “Our report shows that genetic engineered trees are closer than ever to being released even though interest is limited to just a handful of companies and university researchers.” .

“If the Forest Stewardship Council decides to embrace genetic engineering, it will free the Brazilian pulp and paper company Suzano to begin planting its eucalyptus trees that are genetically engineered to tolerate glyphosate herbicides,” said Lizzie Díaz of the World Rainforest Movement at the time of the report’s release.

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