In the November 15, 2012 article “Israeli biotech firm says its modified eucalyptus trees can displace the fossil fuel industry,” John Vidal, environment editor of The Guardian, reported on the GE trees corporation FuturaGene’s push into Brazil.
Significant space is given to Stanley Hirsch, chief executive of FuturaGene. Until here…
Hirsch claims to have met little resistance in Brazil. But conservationists, long opposed to such forests because of the ecological and social damage, claim the plantations are unpopular and that GM trees encourage felling of natural forests to make way for the “green deserts”.
“The dramatic and dangerous impacts of non-GM industrial eucalyptus plantations are well known and include invasiveness, desertification of soils, depletion of water, increased threat of wildfire and loss of biodiversity,” says Anne Petermann, director of the Global Justice Ecology Project in the US. “In Brazil, these plantations are called ‘green deserts’ because nothing can grow in them. Now they want to genetically engineer them, which will make them even more destructive.”
She fears GM trees will put further pressure on the Amazon by encouraging firms to move deeper into the natural forest and will displace communities. “Brazil and the US are racing each other. They directly threaten the Amazon. They displace native forests, grasslands or agriculture and there are plans to expand the land covered by eucalyptus plantations in Brazil by 20-40%. The government has even proposed to ‘reforest’ the Amazon rainforest with eucalyptus plantations,” she says.
Vidal then goes back to Hirsch, who expresses hope that the FSC will certify GE trees. We are working to make sure they don’t!