April 17, 2014

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GE Trees

Press Release: April 9, 2014 - Genetically Engineering Poplars for Paper and Biofuels Condemned: Industry Hype & Misdirected Science Undercuts Real Energy/Climate Solutions

GE tree research and development company ArborGen has a request pending with the US Department of Agriculture to commercially sell hundreds of millions of cold-tolerant GE eucalyptus seedlings. Meanwhile, ArborGen is undergoing a major restructuring of their executive staff following the failure, in 2011, of the company going public on the NASDAQ.

Squirrel in the Woods

May 2013: The US public overwhelming rejected steps toward the legalization of genetically engineered trees during the USDA public comment period (by 99%). The genetically engineered (GE) tree company ArborGen is requesting permission to commercially sell their GE freeze-tolerant eucalyptus trees. "We will continue to hold the government accountable to the will of the people, rather than corporate interests," said Anne Petermann of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees.

New Report! Analysis of the State of GE Trees and Advanced Bioenergy, March 2012

CBAN is a founding member and Steering Committee Member of the North American STOP GE Trees Campaign and is working with groups across the world for a global ban on GE trees. Check out the History and Photos of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees

News

April 2012, New Zealand: Nearly 400 genetically engineered pine trees were destroyed during an April 7 weekend break-in at a one-hectare plantation in New Zealand run by the crown research institute called Scion. Scion had planted 375 genetically engineered radiata pines last year to test herbicide resistance and study reproductive development.

May 2011: With shaken confidence over the commercial future of the technology, the genetically engineered (GE) tree company ArborGen, a joint project of timber corporations International Paper, MeadWestvaco and Rubicon, decided suddenly to change its plans and not sell shares in ArborGen publicly on the NASDAQ exchange.

October, 2011: An alliance of conservation organizations has lost its suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture over its approval of open-air field tests of a genetically engineered (GE) hybrid of eucalyptus tree across the southern United States. "We're not terribly discouraged," said Anne Petermann, executive director of the Global Justice Ecology Project and the coordinator of the STOP GE Trees Campaign. "We'll wait until the next stage of the regulatory process and intervene there," said Mike Stark of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The permit, issued to a company called ArborGen, which is a joint initiative of International Paper, MeadWestvaco and Rubicon, was approved May 12 with minimal environmental review. It authorizes the experimental planting and flowering of a new, genetically engineered hybrid on 28 secret sites across seven southern states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas.

ArborGen hopes its GE “cold-tolerant” Eucalyptus will become widely planted for pulp and biomass. But eucalyptus trees are not native to the United States and are known to become invasive, displacing native wildlife and plants in various areas around the country and increasing wildfire risk. Click here for more information on the case.

U.S. government approval of GE eucalyptus trees sets a dangerous precedent to allow other experimental GE forest trees, including poplar and pine, that would inevitably and irreversibly contaminate native trees with destructive GE traits, devastating forest ecosystems and wildlife. Once GE trees escape, there is no way to call them back. The only way to stop genetic contamination of native forests is to ban the commercial release of GE trees before it is too late.

Take Action

Groups can sign on to the demand to ban GE trees in Canada: Click here to sign on

47 groups signed the letter to the Government of Canada with the following demands:
Click here to see the full letter
Click here to just view the list of 47 groups.

For the health and future of Canada’s forest ecosystems and those around the world:

1. We, the undersigned, ask for an end to existing field trials in Canada and an end to approvals for field trials of genetically engineered trees in Canada.

2. We ask for an end to the use of public funds for field-testing and an end to field-testing at government research stations.

3. We call upon the Canadian Government to support a global moratorium on field testing, planting and commercial use of genetically engineered trees because of the serious risks they pose to biological diversity and to forest ecosystems in Canada and across the world.Sign on here.

Background

Field Trials in Canada:
o In Canada, there have been only one or two field trials in any given year since 1997.
o Since 2000, open-air field tests have only been carried out by government researchers at the Canadian Forest Service, not by private companies.
o Currently (2011) there is testing on genetically engineered poplar at the Laurentian Forestry Centre in Quebec and at Queen's University, Ontario.

“GE trees have the potential to wreak ecological havoc throughout the world’s native forests. GE Trees could also impact wildlife as well as rural and indigenous communities that depend on intact forests for their food, shelter, water, livelihood and cultural practices. As a geneticist, I believe there are far too many unknown and unanswered questions to be growing genetically engineered plants— food crops or trees—in open fields. GE trees should not be released into the environment in commercial plantations and any outdoor test plots or existing plantations should be removed." -- Dr. David Suzuki

Provincial Opposition:
o In Alberta: The Alberta Forest Genetic Resources Council “does not recommend the use of GMOs for reforestation at this time”
o In British Columbia: The Ministry of Forests and Range “has ensured that no genetically modified tree seed has been registered or used” on crown land.

“GE trees have the potential to wreak ecological havoc throughout the world’s native forests. GE Trees could also impact wildlife as well as rural and indigenous communities that depend on intact forests for their food, shelter, water, livelihood and cultural practices. As a geneticist, I believe there are far too many unknown and unanswered questions to be growing genetically engineered plants— food crops or trees—in open fields. GE trees should not be released into the environment in commercial plantations and any outdoor test plots or existing plantations should be removed." -- Dr. David Suzuki

The Canadian Forest Service is conducting field trials of GE poplar in Quebec – trials that may already pose contamination threats to Canadian forests. Even without these trials, the field trials currently underway in the United States could pose a significant threat to Canadian forest ecosystems. This is one reason why CBAN collaborates closely with our colleagues in the US.

GE trees pose a greater threat of contamination than seen with GE crops, largely because trees live for decades, have so many nearby wild relatives and their pollen travels hundreds of miles. The scenario of contamination from trees genetically engineered to be insect resistance via Bt (as in recent government field trials in Quebec), for example, warns of serious biodiversity impacts as Bt targets lepidoptera, a main food source for many birds.

Natural Resources Canada is discussing the use of “Terminator technology” (genetically engineered sterile seed technology) to contain genetic pollution from GE trees. This raises a new level of concern since Terminator would not function 100% but would create new risks from the spread of Terminator genes and sterility traits, for example.

Other News

May 4, 2010, Press Release - New Studies Expose Potential Risks of GMO Trees

April 5, 2010: Gone with the Wind: Far-flung Pine Pollen Still Potent Miles from the Tree

Claire Williams of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) in the U.S. and her colleagues have found that pollen from the loblolly pine can still germinate after drifting long distances. Williams and her colleagues used a hand-held device called a spore sampler to capture and analyze pollen found off the southeastern coast of the U.S. Sampling by helicopter and by ferry, they found viable pine pollen as far as 2,000 feet in the air and 25 miles offshore. "Until then, the highest pine pollen had ever been found in the atmosphere was 1000 feet," comments Williams. The research findings have been published in the American Journal of Botany.

GM loblolly pine has not been approved for commercial planting. GM varieties are planted in the U.S. in field trials, however. The researchers say heir finding means that it would be difficult to contain the pollen from GM loblolly pine trees. The long life span of pine trees makes it difficult to evaluate the environmental impacts of GM varieties, adds Williams. The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Report from the UN Meeting May 2008

Governments at the UN meeting in May 2008 failed to ban GE trees You can read the CBAN Daily Blog from the UN meeting in Germany to find out what exactly happened Read the Press Release from May 22: Canada Tries to Eliminate Moratorium Request on GE Trees

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity could have established an international moratorium on the field testing and commercial release of GE trees at the major COP9 meeting May 19-30 in Germany. But Canada, Brazil, and Colombia, with Australia and New Zealand worked against this proposal from African countries.

CBAN joined with international partners to present the potential negative impacts of GE Trees.

CBAN is a Steering Committee Member of the North American Stop GE Trees Campaign and is working with colleagues across the world in the call for a ban on GE trees.

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