Carbon trading and GE trees rapped at UN conference
Vermont Guardian, December 18, 2004
BUENOS AIRES ”” Activists gathered this week at a UN conference on Climate Change I in Argentina have challenged a 2003 decision to include genetically engineered trees in the “clean development mechanism” of the Kyoto Protocol that is supposed to mitigate carbon emissions.
At a Dec. 16 press conference, representatives from groups in Belgium, Uruguay, Chile, Finland and the United States argued that GE trees threaten forests and communities. A day earlier, more than a dozen groups, social movements and NGOs from around the world met to plan an international campaign to ban the genetic engineering of trees around the world.
"Tree plantations in southern Chile are causing great environmental and social problems,” said Lorena Ojeda, a scientist with the Mapuche people. “We are especially concerned about the heavy pollination of pine plantations in Chile. This pollen causes serious allergies and other health problems in people who breathe it. It also contaminates the water. If this pollen is from genetically engineered trees, it will cause even more serious problems."
According to Anne Petermann, co-director of he Global Justice Ecology Project in Burlington, VT, "Traits being engineered into trees include insect resistance, herbicide resistance, sterility and faster growth, among others. If these traits escape into native forests, which is virtually guaranteed, it will lead to the destruction and contamination of native forests, which will worsen global warming."
Other speakers criticizing the UN’s promotion of GE trees represented the World Rainforest Movement, the UK-based group FERN, and the Union of Ecoforestry.
Coinciding with the UN conference, officially titled the tenth Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the World Rainforest Movement and Friends of the Earth International released a new report, "Genetically Modified Trees: The Ultimate Threat to Forests." Written by Chris Lang it is available in English and Spanish and available at www.wrm.org.uy
"The UN is secretly promoting GE trees,” said Lang. “The UN FAO and UNDP ran a project which promoted and funded the technology in China, where more than 1.5 million GE trees have been planted commercially, with no oversight whatsoever."
He added, "I have repeatedly asked the UN FAO for information on their program and they refuse to respond. If these trees are so safe, why is there so much secrecy?"
During the UN conference, human rights and environmental organizations condemned the rapidly emerging market in carbon as a failed experiment that will not solve the climate change crisis.
In previous climate negotiations, developing countries attempted to create a global fund that could assist them in transitioning to more sustainable energy. But Northern governments instead pushed through a “Clean Development Mechanism,” which allows them to evade limits on their carbon emissions by setting up projects in Southern countries, including "cheap" carbon "sinks" such as large-scale tree plantations.
"Monoculture tree plantations are devastating for local communities and for the environment," said Rachel Nunez of the World Rainforest Movement. "If the Kyoto Protocol allows large plantations of genetically modified trees to count as clean development projects, the results will be catastrophic."
Current carbon trading schemes involve governments, export credit agencies, corporations and international financial institutions, all of which continue to invest in and support fossil fuel use.
The Institute for Policy Studies released an expose on the biggest carbon trading proponent, the World Bank. The report, "Wrong Turn From Rio: The World Bank's Road to Climate Catastrophe," argued that the World Bank has transformed Kyoto tools like carbon trading into mechanisms for profit and maintaining the status quo.
On Dec. 16, a new video on GE trees was shown. The Silent Forest: The Growing Threat of Genetically Engineered Trees will be available in English and Spanish beginning in January 2005.
In the video, world-renowned geneticist David Suzuki, who formerly ran the largest genetics lab in Canada, argues that, because the science of biotechnology is so young, most of what we now know will turn out to be wrong. Thus, he argued against rushing to apply it.