UN CBD Fails to Protect Forests from Genetically Engineered Trees

Bonn, Germany—Under heavy pressure from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, New Zealand and Australia, the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Ninth Conference of the Parties failed to pass a moratorium on the release of genetically engineered trees into the environment despite support for a global ban endorsed by hundreds of organizations around the world, and the unified efforts to stop GE trees carried out by NGOs, Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations, scientists and foresters present at the COP.

The negotiations around the issue of GE trees were heated, with the entire African Group and numerous other Parties staunchly supporting a suspension of the planting of GE trees until risk assessments show that they will have no negative impacts on forests or forest dependent peoples.  Among those blocking this effort were the countries of Brazil, Canada, and New Zealand, all of which are currently conducting field trials of GE trees.  One member of the Brazilian delegation admitted that their delegation included a representative from ArborGen, the world’s leading GE trees research and development company, which projects millions in profits from GE tree plantations that they plan to develop in Brazil. [1]

“Most of the COP resolutions will increase hunger, especially in Southern countries,” explained Ana Filippini of World Rainforest Movement and the STOP GE Trees Campaign.[2]  “Accepting genetically engineered trees is only one more in the chain of wrong policies that will worsen the already serious hunger situation.  Millions of hectares of land are being turned over to the production of agrofuels. With the new emphasis on cellulose-based agrofuels, even more land will be taken for even larger plantations of trees—which will likely someday be GE trees, since the COP would not pass a moratorium on them.  Business has been pushing these unsustainable agrofuels all through this COP, which are only for the benefit of transnational corporations at the expense of human hunger and environmental destruction,” she concluded.

“Yesterday was a bleak day indeed,” added Anne Petermann, Co-Director of Global Justice Ecology Project and Co-Coordinator of the STOP GE Trees Campaign.  “The fact that the COP failed to take strong collective action against GE trees means that more forests will be destroyed, more biodiversity devastated and more peoples displaced.  Global warming will be worsened and livelihoods lost.   As has historically been the case, the work to protect ecosystems will ultimately and unjustly fall upon the communities and peoples that live there.

“Under the leadership of CBD Executive Secretary Ahmed Djoghlaf, the CBD has chosen to actively embrace business and a market-based approach to biodiversity conservation, which has had the inevitable effect of watering down protection of biodiversity where it runs counter to the interests of business.  It is having the effect of seriously jeopardizing the legitimacy of this body.” she concluded.

Notes:

[1] “Rubicon Interim Report”, Rubicon.  02/28/07 (Rubicon is a joint owner of ArborGen)

[2] The STOP GE Trees Campaign is comprised of 137 organizations in 34 countries, all of whom support the call for a global ban on GE trees.  http://www.nogetrees.org

Contact: Anne Petermann, Co-Coordinator, STOP GE Trees Campaign
+49 (0) 160 435 9236 (Bonn mobile good until 09:00 on 1 June)
+1 802 578 0477 (US mobile good as of 17:00 on 1 June)

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