STOP GE Trees Campaign Accomplishments
Actions Against ArborGen in the Southeast US
The STOP GE Trees Campaign launched a major organizing drive in the Southeast US in September and October 2006. The Southeast US is a global hub for research and development (R&D) of genetically engineered trees. It is home to the headquarters of ArborGen, the world’s leader in GE tree R&D, and there are hundreds of outdoor field trials of GE trees throughout the region. We organized a series of events in response to “Forest Management with fast-growing timber plantations,” a major industry conference on fast-growing timber plantations & GE trees organized by IUFRO, the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (a major international body that promotes GE trees) and sponsored by ArborGen. Our events included:
Southeast Roadshow. Over September 17-22, Global Justice Ecology Project, Dogwood Alliance and ForestEthics toured the Southeast with a roadshow on plantations and GE trees to recruit activists to participate in activities surrounding the industry conference. We spoke in 6 cities to 150 people.
Industry Conference Presentation. Danna Smith (Dogwood Alliance), Dr. Neil Carman (Sierra Club) and Anne Petermann (Global Justice Ecology Project) presented “The Ecological and Social Impacts of Fast Growing Timber Plantations and Genetically Engineered Trees” to the entire body of the industry conference. The presentation discussed documented impacts of monoculture timber plantations as well as the projected impacts of GE trees on native forests, and indigenous and rural communities. The manuscript became part of the official conference proceedings.
“A Tree Farm Is Not A Forest” Public Forum. Over 120 people participated in this two day event in Charleston that provided the public with information about the ecological and social impacts of GE trees.
Charleston Harbor Boat Action. During a ferry ride to Fort Sumter as part of the industry conference field trip, conference participants were greeted by a Greenpeace-style boat action with protesters displaying a series of banners on the dangers of plantations and GE trees. Photos from this protest were widely published.
Press Conference. Our press conference and media work resulted in extensive coverage, including articles in The Charleston Post & Courier, The Charleston City Paper (weekly), which ran three separate articles, TV: Channel 2 (NBC Charleston affiliate), Radio: coverage on Georgia Public Radio, North Carolina Public Radio and a community radio station in Boston, as well independent media.
International media work was also done. Aaron Sanger of ForestEthics worked on the Chilean media and Global Justice Ecology Project worked with FASE (the Federation of Educational and Assistance Bodies) and Terra de Direitos in Brazil to distribute information on the protests in Portuguese. The MST (Rural Landless Workers Movement) posted one of our communiques as did ASPTA’s “Por um Brasil Livre de Transgenicos” (For a Brasil Free of Transgenics) electronic Bulletin. In Chile, we made the Mapuche web news: http://www.mapuexpress.net
In addition to the accomplishments listed above, these activities were highly successful for Global Justice Ecology Project and the STOP GE Trees Campaign for a number of reasons:
They raised a great deal of awareness locally about ArborGen, a sponsor of the IUFRO conference, and the world’s leader of GE tree research and development.
The IUFRO conference went on the defensive to the press, helping us raise the profile of the issue even more.
The IUFRO conference changed their field trip from ArborGen’s test plots to another location. ArborGen lost an important PR opportunity with foresters from around the world. This is important because many of the foresters we spoke to during the IUFRO conference and our roadshow are highly suspicious of GE tree technology and do not see a need for it.
The actions were organized in solidarity with the Mapuche people in Chile and in Brazil to the struggle of the Tupinikim and Guarani indigenous peoples, the Afro-Brazilian Quilombolas, the MST and the peasants’ movement Via Campesina. This is important since ArborGen considers Brazil its “most important geography” and has numerous test plots of GE trees in the country.
GE Plum Deregulation Campaign
In the summer of 2006 the STOP GE Trees Campaign mobilized opposition to a petition filed by the USDA to deregulate (legalize production of) GE plum trees. Stopping commercialization of the GE plum is important because it would be the first GE temperate tree to be legalized in the U.S., setting a dangerous legal precedent that would make it difficult to stop other GE temperate trees: such as pine, poplar and spruce. In addition, ecological threats from the release of GE plums include impacts on pollinators, such as bees, and the contamination of wild plums. Our mobilization generated hundreds of letters to the USDA opposing deregulation. We are now awaiting a decision from the USDA, which will determine our next steps with this campaign.
GJEP in the Media
Global Justice Ecology Project made the news quite a lot in 2006 with features in:
-Earth Island Journal “Frankenforests,” and Z Magazine “Convention on Climate Change Fiddles While the Earth Burns,” plus interviews on Georgia Public Radio and North Carolina Public Radio stations.
-Utne Reader, 7/06, “Out On A Limb: GE Trees Take Root”
-Family Farm Defenders, 8/06, “What’s Next? GE Trees! Industry Moving Toward Commercialization; Resistance Grows in Response”
-Upstream Journal, 9/06, “Genetically Engineered Trees Pose Danger to Forests & People”
-Watershed Sentinel, 11/06, “GE Trees Taking Root in the Forest Industry”
STOP GE Trees Campaign Presentations
Plantations, Indigenous Rights, and Genetically Engineered Trees, April 13th, 2006, at the School of Community and Public Affairs, Concordia University. CKUT Community News Collective sponsored a presentation about the threat of genetically engineered trees on nature and communities featuring the film “A Silent Forest: The Growing Threat, Genetically Engineered Trees” and a presentation by Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle on the STOP GE Trees Campaign and solidarity work with the Mapuche people and indigenous groups in Brazil.
Midwest Social Forum, July 2006, Madison, Wisconsin, Presentation by Orin Langelle on the ecological and social threats of GE trees, and showing of “A Silent Forest: The Growing Threat, Genetically Engineered Trees.”
1st Annual Local Foods & Sustainable Agriculture Conference: Making the Global Connection April 2006, Blue Hill, Maine, featuring a presentation by Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle on the STOP GE Trees Campaign and work with the Mapuche people and indigenous groups in Brazil; participated in a global video conference featuring GE campaigns; showed “A Silent Forest.”
Nicaragua Network National Leadership Meeting, April 2007, Washington, DC, Orin Langelle presented the video “A Silent Forest” and spoke on the issue of GE trees and indigenous rights in Latin America. GJEP is a member of Nicaragua Network.
Top right: Boat action in Charleston, SC. Photo by Langelle/ GJEP