Groups and Scientists Call for Halt to GM Trees
by Phiona Hamilton-Gordon, ed.
The Canadian, 18 May 2008
Bonn, GERMANY--Organizations and scientists from around the world spoke about their opposition to genetically engineered trees in relation to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity's Ninth Conference of the Parties (CBD COP-9).  They are demand that governments at the UN agree to accept the proposal to suspend all releases of genetically engineered (GE) trees into the environment, due to their extreme ecological and social threats.
Camila Moreno, a researcher from Terra de Direitos in Brazil further explained, "there is a clear link between two of the major issues to be discussed at this meeting--agrofuels (biofuels) and GE trees." She added, "A clear sign of this is the ethanol cooperation agreement being signed by Brazil and Germany. While German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Brazil, Brazil's President Luiz InÃ¡cio Lula da Silva assured her that so-called second generation biofuels -- made from GE trees and other cellulose--would better suit the German market."
"Genetically Engineered trees threaten to contaminate native forests around the world with unnatural and destructive traits such as the ability to kill insects, or have reduced lignin--the substance that enables a tree to stand up straight and withstand disease," stated Anne Petermann, Co-Director of Global Justice Ecology Project (the North American Focal Point for Global Forest Coalition) and Co-Coordinator of the STOP GE Trees Campaign. "Escape of these GE tree traits into forests would devastate wildlife, biodiversity and forest-dependent communities. It is for this reason that 137 groups from 34 countries have become members of the STOP GE Trees Campaign to demand a global ban on genetically engineered trees," she added.
At the CBD COP-8 in Curitiba, Brazil in 2006, the CBD passed an historic decision that urged countries to use the precautionary approach with regard to genetically engineered trees. This amounts to a de facto moratorium since the precautionary approach is a direct reference to the precautionary principle, enshrined in the CBD. Groups are now calling on the CBD to strengthen this decision into a binding halt to any release of GE trees into the environment.
"The CBD should take measures to stop the expansion of large-scale monoculture plantations, and ban both transgenic trees and 'terminator' technology. This is the request supported by many organizations around the world as stated in our 'Open letter to the COP', " said Ana Filippini, of the World Rainforest Movement, one of the organizations promoting this initiative. WRM is the Southern Hub of the STOP GE Trees Campaign. The Campaign will have a very visible and vocal presence throughout the COP-9, with numerous events and activities planned throughout the two-week period.
 Speakers included:
Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher, biologist, geneticist, Director, EcoNexus, Representative, Federation of German Scientists; Dr. Michael Hansen, Researcher, Consumers Union Camila Moreno, Researcher, Terra de Direitos, Brazil; Anne Petermann, Co-Director, Global Justice Ecology Project, North American Focal Point for Global Forest Coalition and Co-coordinator of STOP GE Trees Campaign; Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network