Eucalyptus Trees

A coalition of environmental organizations is urging the executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to enact a global ban on the industrial planting of genetically modified trees.

According to the WorldWatch Institute, genetically modified trees are being developed by the forestry industry for use in industrial plantations such as paper and agrofuels. The company ArborGen has a request currently pending with the USDA for the approval to sell half a billion of its cold-tolerant eucalyptus tree seedlings genetically modified to resist pesticides and withstand colder temperatures.

The environmental organizations: World Rainforest Movement, Global Justice Ecology Project, the Campaign to Stop Genetically Engineered Trees, Global Forest Coalition, and Biofuelwatch sent a letter to the UN earlier this month about the issue, citing that the technology is aimed solely at increasing revenue while ignoring the already known serious damage genetically modified crops cause to the environment and human health. The Sierra Club has commented on the issue, saying, “the possibility that the new genes spliced into GE trees will interfere with natural forests isn’t a hypothetical risk but a certainty,” and that “commercial development of out-of-doors applications in the absence of environmental safeguards is a prescription for disaster.”

According to the March 2012 report, “Analysis of the State of GE Trees” released by the Global Justice Ecology Project, it’s not just ArborGen and other biotech companies, either. “Universities, timber corporations and seedling manufacturers in the Pacific Northwest are teaming up to develop genetically engineered poplars for bioenergy production.”

The Global Ecology Project reports that 245 organizations and Indigenous Peoples’ organizations from 49 countries support a global ban on GM trees.

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Image: Chris_Samuel