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Press Release from the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees
4 September 2014

New York –Two letters [1, 2] signed by hundreds of organizations from around the world were delivered today to the Brazilian National Technical Biosafety Commission (CTNBio) calling on them to deny a pending request by the FuturaGene Corporation to commercially release genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees [3] in Brazil. This occurred in the capital Brasilia during a CTNBio public hearing on the FuturaGene request. CTNBio is the Brazilian governmental institution charged with authorizing commercial release of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in that country.

The letters were delivered to CTNBio by representatives of Terra de Direitos [4], The Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) [5], La Via Campesina Brazil [6], and the Small Farmers Movement (MPA) [7] -social movements and organizations that represent hundreds of thousands of people in Brazil. They joined the effort to stop commercialization of GE trees due to their potentially serious negative impacts on the environment and biodiversity, local communities, and human and indigenous rights.

FuturaGene’s application is the first ever requesting permission to commercially grow GE trees in Brazil, where they are currently only permitted in field trials. FuturaGene, registered in the UK, is owned by Brazil-based pulp and paper company Suzano.

Due to mounting global concerns about GE trees, in 2008, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity called for the application of the Precautionary Approach regarding GE trees, as well as a comprehensive and transparent assessment of their long-term social and ecological risks prior to any open release into the environment. This risk assessment has not been done.

Any approval by CTNBio of the commercialization of the GE eucalyptus in question would therefore violate the decision of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity [8] to which Brazil is a signatory.

Additional companies such as Fibria (formerly Aracruz) and ArborGen are also heavily invested in the commercialization of highly controversial GE trees. ArborGen has offices in the US, Brazil and Australasia. Barbara Wells, who led ArborGen until 2012, was, for 18 years, the head of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GE soy division in Brazil.

Dr. Rachel Smolker, Co-director of Biofuelwatch [9] states:
“The case of GE trees in Brazil is also highly significant because there is also a request currently pending in the United States by GE tree company ArborGen to commercially release the very first GE trees there–freeze tolerant GE eucalyptus trees. This would be an ecological catastrophe for the Southern US, where they would be planted. It would also intensify climate change [10]. GE trees must be stopped in both Brazil and the US.”

Teresa Perez, of World Rainforest Movement [11], and the Campaign to STOP GE Trees [12] states:
“The threat posed by the release of transgenic trees in Brazil is a warning for everyone in the American continent and peoples of many other countries where companies want to expand large-scale tree monocultures. Companies will benefit from this new and dangerous technology, while communities who already suffer from the negative impacts of monoculture tree plantations will once again suffer the negative social, ecological and economic consequences.”

In the letters that were delivered today, social movements, scientists, lawyers and organizations from around the world are calling for a global ban on the commercial release of genetically engineered trees, due to their unknown but potentially severe social and ecological impacts and incalculable economic risks, which would overwhelmingly accrue to the public.

The Campaign to STOP GE Trees is an international alliance of organizations [13], that includes Indigenous Peoples, scientists, anti-GM food activists, forest protection advocates and social justice organizers from across North and South America, Europe and Australasia – all of which are home to companies and universities developing GE trees.

Contact:
Jay Burney, Media Coordinator, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, +1.716.716.867.4080 jay@stopgetrees.org (English)
Teresa Perez, WRM, (office) +598.2.413.2989, (mobile) +598.9.961.4365, teresap@wrm.org.uy (Spanish)

Notes To Editors:
[1] http://wrm.org.uy/highlighted_post/campaign-to-stop-ge-trees-sign-on-to-support-the-call-by-brazilian-and-latin-american-groups-to-reject-g-e-eucalyptus-trees/
[2] http://globaljusticeecology.org/open-letter-ctnbio-reject-ge-trees-brazil/
[3] Genetically engineered trees, or GE trees, are also known as genetically modified trees (GM trees), GMO trees and transgenic trees.
[4] Terra de Direitos http://terradedireitos.org.br/en/
[5] Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) http://www.mstbrazil.org/whatismst
[6] La Via Campesina http://viacampesina.org/en/
[7] Small Farmers Movement http://www.mpabrasil.org.br
[8] IX/5(1) of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity http://www.cbd.int/decision/cop/?id=11648
[9] Biofuelwatch http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk
[10] GE Trees Fact Sheet: http://globaljusticeecology.org/fact-sheet-on-genetically-engineered-trees/
[11] World Rainforest Movement http://wrm.org.uy
[12] Campaign to STOP GE Trees http://stopgetrees.org/
[13] Organizations involved in the Campaign to STOP GE Trees include:

Biofuelwatch (US-UK): http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network http://www.cban.ca/
EcoNexus (EUR) http://www.econexus.info
Friends of the Earth Melbourne (AUS) http://www.melbourne.foe.org.au
Global Justice Ecology Project (North America) http://globaljusticeecology.org/
Indigenous Environmental Network (North America) http://www.ienearth.org/
World Rainforest Movement (Uruguay) http://wrm.org.uy