December 7, 2016
Agrofuels or biofuels?
The term “agrofuels” describes liquid fuels derived from food and oil crops produced in large-scale plantation-style industrial production systems. These agrofuels are blended with petrol and diesel for use primarily as transport fuel. The term biofuels is used widely for any fuel derived from biological material in contrast to fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) but where plants are cultivated in agricultural systems for the purpose of fuel production, the term agrofuel is more appropriate to include the specific context and problems such as monoculture plantations and the competition with land for food production.
Agrofuels are speeding us towards climate change: Agriculture already contributed at least 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Corn for ethanol, and soy and canola for biodiesel, are industrial monocrops that take fertilizers, pesticides and water to grow - and these three are also the major genetically engineered crops grown in the world (most owned by Monsanto). It is estimated that in 2010, 1/3 of the US corn crop will be dedicated to ethanol production instead of food. Production of agrofuels, primarily palm oil, is now the largest cause of deforestation in South East Asia - and deforestation is responsible for 20% of global carbon emissions. The race to access crop land for fuel and food production is now resulting in a global "land grab" where foreign countries and companies are buying or leasing land. 86% of global biomass is located in the tropics and subtropics, a simple fact driving an industrial grab that threatens to accelerate the pace of forest destruction and land acquisition in the South in order to feed the economies of the North.
- Read the "debate" on agrofuels between CBAN Coordinator Lucy Sharratt and Gord Quaiattini of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association in the July/August Costco Connection.
- Listen: Bioethanol and biodiesel not a green alternative, Interview with CBAN Coordinator Lucy Sharratt, Vancouver Cooperative Radio va Rabble.ca October 2010
- Read "Biofuels Backfire: hasty approach will impact environment, food production" from Common Ground magazine, July 2010 by Lucy Sharratt
- Click here to download a background document from Food Secure Canada.
April 2014: Biofuels such as ethanol made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term. A $500,000 study paid for by the U.S. federal government released in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change concludes that biofuels made with corn residue release 7 per cent more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with conventional gasoline. Read the CBC story here.
August 2012: There's growing pressure on the Obama administration to end support for corn ethanol. The worst drought in 50 years has not only condemned this year's (mostly GM) corn crop but threatens next year's too. The US government mandate requires unleaded fuel to be approximately 13% ethanol, regardless of supply.
August 2012: Growing demand for African palm oil for biofuels and as a key ingredient in cosmetics and processed foods is fuelling deadly land disputes in the Honduran countryside, pitting large landowners against landless peasants. At least 78 people have been killed over the past three years as a competition for land In Honduras heats up.
February 2012: A new study from the George Morris Centre shows that Canadian ethanol production policies are responsible for increasing costs for the Canadian livestock sector by $130 million per year.
Europe's world-leading $13 billion biodiesel industry is on the verge of being legislated out of existence after studies reveal indirect impacts cancel out most of its benefits. See Reuters story, July 8, 2011: Climate impact threatens biodiesel future in EU
ETC Group Report, October 2010: "The New Biomassters - Synthetic Biology and the Next Assault on Biodiversity and Livelihoods" exposes the emerging global grab on plants, lands, ecosystems, and traditional cultures as industry shifts industrial production feedstocks from fossil fuels to the 230 billion tones of 'biomass' (living stuff) that the Earth produces every year - not just for liquid fuels but also for production of power, chemicals, plastics and more in the new "bioeconomy".
Podcasts from the “Earth Grab” events:
The rush to grow ‘biomass’ for fuels and industry will be worth $1/2 trillion – but won’t feed people, or stop climate change. Farm leaders from the Global South describe the reality and propose alternatives: Iderle Brénus, leader/organizer, Mouvement paysan Papaye, Haiti; Ibrahim Coulibaly, farm movement leader, COPAGEN, Mali.
Biofuels in Canadian fuel
The Conservative Government is implementing the "Renewable Fuels Regulations" to require 5% of fuel should come from biofuels like corn ethanol, even though a study from Environment Canada found that the ecological footprint could not reliably be determined. The highly controversial new regulations was passed (Bill C-33) in June 2008 in the midst of the new food crisis. The Bill allows the federal government to develop and implement regulations requiring 5% average renewable content in gasoline by 2010 as well as require 2% average renewable content in diesel and heating oil by 2012. The Canadian government rushed the "Renewable Fuels Regulations" to require biofuels in our gas but there are new reports all the time about serious environmental and economic problems with biofuels.
What's Wrong with Biofuels Regulations in Canada?
There are many new studies and the verdict on biofuels is not looking good:
- The promised economic benefit to farmers will not be seen. The government’s own "regulatory impact statement" now reveals that farmers will not benefit from the production of grains used to make the biofuels. The statement says more corn will be imported from the US to meet the biofuels regulation in eastern Canada!
- The impact statement also shows that consumers will bear most of the costs associated with the biofuel expansion - to a total of $2 billion. This is because the ethanol-blended gas has a lower energy content so consumers will need to buy more fuel! The statement also says: “Assuming all industry costs are passed on to the consumer, regional average cost over 25 years range from 7 cents in Ontario to a relatively higher impact of 30 cents in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces”.
- The promise that air quality would get better and thus improve the health of Canadians also didn’t pan out as a recent 2009 Health Canada report concluded that “there are no substantial differences in predicted health effects between use of conventional use (gasoline) and E10 (ethanol-blended gasoline).”
- The Federal Government still says the new biofuels mandate will be good for the environment, even though their own research indicates no statistical difference in Greenhouse Gas Emissions at the tailpipe between vehicles using ethanol and vehicles not using ethanol. <http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2007/03/30/ethanol-emissions.html>
When the Senate passed Bill C-33, it also suggested that, “any new information that is available prior to regulations being proposed is taken into consideration before such regulations are promulgated.”
Global Conflict Over Agrofuels
The corporate "agrofuels" gold-rush has ignited a major global conflict. Find out why...
"At the World Forum on Food Sovereignty, held in Mali in Africa, we and other delegates discussed how capital has manipulated terminology by adding the prefix “bio”, which signifies life, to renewable plant-based fuels. This is ridiculous, because all living things are “bio”. We could call ourselves bio-people, bio-John Smith, bio-soya, etc. Companies use the prefix “bio” to encourage the public to see their products as a good thing, as politically correct. So, at the international level, Vía Campesina has agreed to use more accurate terminology. These fuels and energy are produced from agricultural crops and so the correct terms are agrofuels and agro-energy." - João Pedro Stedile is one of the leaders of the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST), Brazil’s Landless Movement
August 2010, Friends of the Earth Europe and Africa report: Africa Up For Grabs: Africa is increasingly being seen as a source of agricultural land and natural resources for the rest of the world. National governments and private companies are obtaining land across the continent to grow crops for food and fuel to meet growing demand from mainly overseas countries.
Agrofuels and GE Trees
Biotechnology corporations are seriously promoting genetically engineered trees and new GE crops for use as biofuels (agrofuels). The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy September 10-12, 2008 in Vancouver was all about genetic engineering and new technologies for biofuels - including, and explicitly, GE trees. The conference included the session “Cellulosic Ethanol from Softwoods Around the World” and the presentation “Biotechnology in Purpose-Grown Trees to Make Bioenergy Production" by ArborGen, the leading company researching GE trees.
This corporate link with agrofuels was a major reason why Brazil, Canada and the US defeated the attempt by African governments to establish an international moratorium on GE trees at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in 2008.
“Fast growing, purpose-grown trees are an ideal feedstock platform for second generation bioenergy production…Producing renewable energy from purpose-grown trees is the latest step in the evolution of trees’ long and fruitful history and critical to meeting global bioenergy development needs.”
– from summary to BIO Conference presentation "Biotechnology in Purpose-Grown Trees to Make Bioenergy Production" in the session "New Feedstocks for Biofuels", a presentation from Barbara Wells of ArborGen.
September 14, 2016: German chemicals giant Bayer has confirmed its record-breaking $66bn takeover of GM seeds corporation Monsanto - a deal that would create the world's biggest seeds and pesticides company. The new company would control approximately 31% of the world's commercial seed market and 26% of agricultural pesticides.
Press Release - September 15, 2016: Bayer’s Takeover of Monsanto Triggers Anti-Competition Fears: Groups in Canada request Competition Bureau review
The "Big Six" to the "Big Three"?
In 2015, companies Dow and Dupont agreed to merge (click here to read the analysis on impacts of this merger), and earlier this year, Chinese state-owned company ChemChina bought Syngenta. If regulators allow the Bayer-Monsanto merger and these other two mergers, the resulting three companies will control more than 65% of global pesticide sales and almost 61% of commercial seed sales. (Source: Merge-Santo: New Threat to Food Sovereignty, ETC Group)
The markets for genetically engineered (also called genetically modified or GM) crops are dominated by six seed and agrochemical companies. The high level of corporate concentration in the seed market has already meant higher prices and limited choices for farmers. Legal controls, such as patents on genetic sequences, have meant that farmers cannot reuse, save, share or sell GM seeds, but have to buy them from seed companies every year. Patented GM seeds are significantly more expensive than non-GM seed. For information on the impacts of corporate control in seeds, see CBAN's GMO Inquiry report "Are GM Crops Better for Farmers?"
The six major companies developing and selling genetically engineered seeds are:
- Collectively, these six companies control 63% of seeds and 75% of agrochemicals globally.
- At least 70% of their research and development funds in seeds and crops are devoted to biotechnology and GE crops.
It is estimated that these six companies account for over 95% of all GE crop acres in the world (97% in 2007). Monsanto’s GE traits are approximately 85% of the total GE acreage.
Since the first GE seeds were introduced in 1996, the market share of the world’s three largest seed companies – Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta – has more than doubled.
These six companies regularly cross license to each other, reinforcing their market power. About half of all commercial GE seeds with stacked traits are the result of cross licensing between companies.
Monsanto is the world's largest seed company and, as of January 2013, had filed 144 seed patent infringement lawsuits involving 410 farmers and 56 small businesses in 27 states in the US. Click here to see more information about Monsanto
ETC Group, May 2015: Monsanto/Syngenta: From Gene Giants to Agribehemoths
ETC Group, March 2013: Gene Giants Seek "Philanthrogopoly" The report takes a look at how the 6 multinational Gene Giants control the current priorities and future direction of agriculture research worldwide.
ETC Group, December 2011:Who Will Control the Green Economy? The 60-page report connects the dots between the climate and oil crises, new technologies and corporate power. The report warns that the world’s largest companies are riding the coattails of the “Green Economy” while gearing up for their boldest coup to-date – not just by making strategic acquisitions and tapping new markets, but also by penetrating new industrial sectors. DuPont, for example, already the world’s second largest seed company and sixth largest company in both pesticides and chemicals, is now a powerhouse in plant-based materials, energy and food ingredients. Other major players like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, BASF and Unilever are making strategic investments in risky technologies in hopes of turning plant biomass into products and profit.
ETC Group, October 2010: Gene Giants Stockpile Patents on “Climate-Ready” Crops in Bid to Become Biomassters: Patent Grab Threatens Biodiversity, Food Sovereignty. Under the guise of developing “climate-ready” crops, the world’s largest seed and agrochemical corporations are filing hundreds of sweeping, multi-genome patents in a bid to control the world’s plant biomass. ETC Group identifies over 262 patent families, subsuming 1663 patent documents published worldwide (both applications and issued patents) that make specific claims on environmental stress tolerance in plants (such as drought, heat, flood, cold, salt tolerance). DuPont, Monsanto, BASF, Bayer, Syngenta and their biotech partners account for three-quarters (77%) of the patent families identified. Just three companies – DuPont, BASF, Monsanto – account for over two-thirds of the total. Public sector researchers hold only 10%.
ETC Group publishes reports on major trends in corporate agendas to control nature including new patent grabs.
The early warnings of environmentalists about the negative impacts of genetically engineered plants are, unfortunately but inevitably, being proven correct. In addition to ongoing concerns about the impact of GM insect resistant (Bt) crops on soil ecosystems and non-target insects we see the following serious problems:
- Contamination: Contamination from GM plants is having ecological and economic and social impacts.
- Superweeds: In 2010 the development of herbicide tolerant (HT) weeds became a serious problem in the U.S and in HT weeds are now becoming a problem in Ontario and Alberta.
- Superpests: In 2011 insects that developed resistance to GM Bt (insect resistant) plants were being observed.
- Increased Pesticide Use: GM insect resistant (Bt) crops produce their own toxin and do not reduce or eliminate insecticides, but simply change the way that pesticides are used, from sprayed on, to built in. US and Latin American data show that GM herbicide tolerant crops have increased overall pesticide use, and have dramatically accelerated the emergence and spread of resistant weeds.
- Decrease in Biodiversity: The expansion of corn and soy crops in North America, particularly GM herbicide-tolerant corn and soy which is twinned with herbicides, has destroyed much of the weedy habitat of monarch butterfly.
Once genetically engineered organisms are released into the environment, they cannot be recalled and they cannot be controlled.
- Canadian farmers are currently suffering through a crisis of GM contamination of flax - Click here to read about the case of GM flax contamination.
- You can also take action to stop the introduction of GM alfalfa and read about how inevitable contamination will impact conventional and organic farmers.
- Article and videos about how contamination is affecting communities around the world - and what people are doing to stop and reverse it. GRAIN 2009 "Fighting GMO contamination around the world"
- Worldwide Contamination Registry: Click here to see the on-line registry of GE contamination incidents. See details of all the known cases of GM contamination of food, feed, seed and wild plants that have taken place worldwide (hosted by GeneWatch UK and Greenpeace). The Register has documented more than 216 cases of GM contamination in 57 countries over the past 10 years, including 39 cases in 2007.
New report!A new report from the African Centre for Biodiversity about genetically modified crops is called “For your own good!” - "The GM industry is expanding its grasp to African traditional crops such as cassava, sorghum, sweet potato, pigeon pea, cowpea, banana as well as rice under the guise of philanthropy." April 2016.
CBAN's final report in the GMO Inquiry 2015 examines the claim that we need genetically modified crops (and animals) to address global hunger and provide enough food for a growing population.
The report includes updates and research from the five other reports of the GMO Inquiry, on the impacts and risks of GM crops and foods on farmers and the environment over the past twenty years.
June 2015: Non-governmental and farmer organisations from South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda strongly condemn the go-ahead given by the South African GMO authorities for Monsanto to commercially sell its genetically modified "drought tolerant" maize seed for cultivation in South Africa. According to the groups, there is no evidence showing that the drought tolerant trait even works.
October 2014: CBAN Report "Will GM Crops Feed the World?"
Proponents of GM crops tell us that we need genetic modification to feed a growing population and reduce global hunger. CBAN's report examines experiences with GM crops from around the world to answer this question.
The report exposes the many ways in which GM crops threaten the environment and farmers' livelihoods, and overlook the real causes of hunger. Using case studies from around the world, the report shows that there is no place for GM crops in an ecologically sustainable and socially just food system.
- Click here for the full report.
- Click here for the 2-page report summary.
- Click here for the handy 2-page mini-booklet, for distributing at events and in your community.
"Seeking a technological food fix for world hunger may be the most commercially malevolent wild goose chase of the new century."- Dr Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet. See this and other quotes across the years.
November 19, 2013 webcast featuring Miguel Altieri from the University of California (Berkeley) – a widely published, leading authority on agroecology – speaking about ecological agriculture as a key solution to food insecurity, hunger, and climate change. How to Feed 9 billion on a Small Planet: watch the Youtube presentation and discussion
Growing evidence shows that agroecology will feed the world. Business as usual will not.
Biotech plays the world hunger card to promote GMOs, October 13, 2013 by Lucy Sharratt and Taarini Chopra, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network
"GMOs: Fooling – er, "feeding" – the world for 20 years", by GRAIN, May 2013. Debunks the myths summarized in five points: GMOs will feed the world; GMOs are more productive; they will eliminate the use of agrochemicals; they can coexist with other crops; and GMOs are perfectly safe for humans and the environment.
"The food crisis is not a scarcity problem; it’s an access and distribution problem, fundamentally linked to the way our food is produced. Simply put, our global food system is unfair and no longer works. It needs a dramatic transformation. How we grow our food matters." - From USC Canada's 2012 Primer on the Global Food Crisis
- 85 % of the world’s food is currently grown and consumed within national borders
- 90% of the 525 million farms in the world are still less than 2 hectares in size and occupy 60% of global arable land.
- 1.4 billion people still eat from farmer saved seed.
- From the March 2013 ETC Group report Gene Giants Seek "Philanthrogopoly"
To date, agroecological projects have shown an average crop yield increase of 80 per cent in 57 developing countries, with an average increase of 116 per cent for all African projects. Recent projects conducted in 20 African countries demonstrated a doubling of crop yields over a period of 3 to 10 years.
- “Agroecology and the Right to Food”, Report presented at the 16th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, March 2011. Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
Peasants Feed the World
Eighty-five percent of the world’s food is grown and consumed within national borders and/or the same eco-regional zone. Most of this food is grown from peasant-bred seed without the industrial chain’s synthetic fertilizers. Peasants breed and nurture 40 livestock species and almost 8000 breeds. Peasants also breed 5000 domesticated crops and have donated more than 1.9 million plant varieties to the world’s gene banks. Peasant fishers harvest and protect more than 15,000 freshwater species. The work of peasants and pastoralists maintaining soil fertility is 18 times more valuable than the synthetic fertilizers provided by the seven largest corporations.
There are 1.5 billion on 380 million farms; 800 million more growing urban gardens; 410 million gathering the hidden harvest of our forests and savannas; 190 million pastoralists and well over 100 million peasant fishers. At least 370 million of these are also indigenous peoples. Together these peasants make up almost half the world’s peoples and they grow at least 70% of the world’s food. Better than anyone else, they feed the hungry. If we are to eat in 2050 we will need all of them and all of their diversity. - From Who Will Feed Us? ETC Group, November 2009.
Find here information on the following important crops - not on the market in 2016:
- Alfalfa - GM alfalfa seed was sold in the spring of 2016 for the first time
- Apple - A GM non-browning apple was approved in Canada and the US in 2015 but is not yet on the market.
- Flax - Canadian farmers suffered a GE flax contamination crisis in late 2009 even though the flax is not on the market.
- Potato - A new GM potato was approved in 2014 the US and was approved in Canada in March 2016, it is not yet in food stores.
- Rice - People across the world are fighting to stop GM rice.
- Wheat- Monsanto withdrew applications for GM wheat approval in 2004 but continues to develop GE wheat.
- Fish - A GM Atlantic salmon was approved in Canada and the US but it is not yet in production anywhere in the world.
It has been 15 years since genetically engineered crops and foods were first introduced into Canada. But only 4 GE crops are currently grown in Canada:
These crops are either insect resistant or herbicide tolerant and many now carry both traits. We could also be importing GE papaya, squash, cottonseed oil and milk products from the US.
Though the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada have approved over 50 varieties of 12 GE crops and foods under their category of "Plants with Novel Traits" and "Novel Foods", not all of these are products of genetic engineering. Furthermore, many GE crop varieties listed are not currently on the market in Canada (such as GE potatoes and tomatoes). See the below lists for the exact breakdown of what genetically engineered seeds farmers in Canada are planting and what GE foods are on our grocery store shelves.
- Click here to to see this chart of GM foods in Canada.
- Click here to see the Shoppers Guide from Greenpeace Canada which lists brand-name foods.
- Click here to read the full story of how Monsanto's Bovine Growth Hormone was rejected in Canada.
GE Crops Globally
2015: GM crops (predominately corn, soy, and cotton - herbicide tolerant and/or insect resistant) are still confined to a handful of countries with highly industrialized, export-oriented agricultural sectors. Numbers from 2014 show that one country alone - the U.S. - plants 40% of the global GM crop area. 77% of the world's GM crops are planted in the U.S.(40%), Brazil (23%) and Argentina (13%). India (GM cotton) and Canada (GM canola, corn, soy and sugarbeet) both plant 6% of the global acres of GM. For details see CBAN's report "Where in the world are GM crops and foods?"
GE Crops in Europe
2015: The only genetically engineered crop currently cultivated in European Union (EU) is Monsanto's insect resistant (Bt) corn MON810. In 2015, five countries – Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania – planted a total of 116,870 hectares of Bt corn, 18% less than the amount planted in 2014. Spain planted 92% of the total area under Bt corn in the EU. EU regulation allows Member States to opt-out of cultivating GM crops. 19 of 28 EU countries have chosen not to grow GM crops in their territories. Germany and Poland used to grow GM corn, but discontinued cultivation in 2009 and 2012, respectively. EU countries import approximately 40 million tonnes of GMOs, mostly GM soy, from North and South America for animal feed.
It's been 20 years since genetically engineered (GE; also called genetically modified or GM) crops and foods were first introduced into Canada.
Four GE crops are widely grown in Canada:
These four crops end up as processed food ingredients and are also widely used for animal feed. They are genetically engineered to be insect resistant and/or herbicide tolerant. For details on where these GM crops are planted, and how much, see CBAN's report "Where in the world are GM crops and foods?"
Canada could also be importing a small amount of:
5. GE papaya (from Hawaii)
6. GE squash - some varieties of yellow crookneck squash (from the US)
7. GE cottonseed oil
8. milk products from the US made with the use of recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone
Some other genetically engineered crops have been approved and could be sold in stores soon:
9. The GM non-browning apple was approved in 2015 in the US and Canada but is not on the market in Canada in 2016.
10. There is a GM potato that was approved in March 2016 but none were planted in Canada in 2016.
11. Canada has also approved a GM Atlantic salmon. It is not yet in production anywhere in the world.
12. In Canada, some GM alfalfa was sold in 2016 for the first time. This crop is used for animal feed.
Though the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada have approved over 100 varieties of 12 genetically engineered (GE) crops and foods under their category of "Plants with Novel Traits" and "Novel Foods", not all of these are products of genetic engineering and many are not currently on the market. Many GE crop varieties that are approved are not on the market in Canada, or anywhere else in the world, such as GE tomatoes. For more information and analysis see CBAN's report "Where in the world are GM crops and foods?"
GM fish approved by Health Canada
On May 19, 2016, Health Canada approved a genetically modified (GM, also called genetically engineered) Atlantic salmon. The company AquaBounty (now majority owned by biotechnology company Intrexon) claims the salmon grows faster. The salmon are genetically engineered with a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon and genetic material from ocean pout (an eel-like creature). If the company starts producing the GM fish and grocery stores sell it, it will be the first GM food animal in the world.
- Press release - May 19, 2016: Health Canada Approves First GM Fish Amidst Environmental and Transparency Concerns
- Health Canada documents on their decision - including links to technical document
- Statement from Health Canada
Click here to send an instant letter to the Chair and Vice-Chairs of the House of Commons Agriculture Committee who are studying the issue of GM animals - ask them to recommend mandatory GM food labelling before the GM salmon hits the market.
Write to your grocery chain and ask them not to stock any GM salmon – click here for grocery store contacts
Health Canada announced food safety approval of the GM salmon on May 19 2016 and Canada's Minister of the Environment approved the commercial production of genetically modified (GM) Atlantic salmon eggs and fish in late 2013. However, the environmental approval is currently before the courts in Canada.
The US government approved the fish for eating on November 19, 2015 - however there is a temporary import ban on the GM fish until labelling questions are decided.
The company says it will produce GM fish eggs in Prince Edward Island (PEI) and ship them to Panama for grow-out and processing but the company has approval to produce the fish in PEI and is expanding its PEI operations. AquaBounty is also conducting "field trials" in Brazil and Argentina (all the GM fish eggs come from PEI) The GM fish is not yet on the market.
March 31, 2016: Ecology Action Centre (EAC) in Nova Scotia has joined with US groups to sue the US Food and Drug Administration for approving genetically modified (GM) salmon. This is only one step that EAC and other groups are taking to prevent this threat to Canada's wild Atlantic salmon. EAC and Living Oceans Society (BC) continue their challenge of Canada's decision to allow production of GM salmon in PEI.
June 2015: The GM "fast-growing" salmon is more susceptible to disease, may not actually grow any faster, and it looks like the genetic modification is causing inconsistent growth rates. Find out more here.
AquaBounty Fined in Panama
Press Release: October 28, 2014 - Panama Fines GM Fish Company with Canadian Operation for Violating Environmental Regulations The Government of Panama has fined the company AquaBounty for breaching numerous national environmental laws during its ongoing research and development of a genetically modified (GM) Atlantic salmon. The GM fish eggs were shipped from Canada, provoking fears of environmental contamination in both countries.
- Press Release - November 21, 2013: Complaint in Panama Raises Concerns About GM fish Research in Canada
- Letter to the Minister of the Environment from CBAN, November 21, 2013
- Letter of Support to CIAM's administrative filing in Panama, alleging violations of environmental regulations. Signed by CBAN, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, GeneWatch UK, Food & Water Europe.
Background on the GM Salmon
What is the GM Salmon?
The U.S. company AquaBounty has genetically engineered (GE, also called genetically modified or GM) Atlantic salmon. The company claims its “AquAdvantage” salmon grow to market-size twice as fast as other farmed salmon. That’s because the Atlantic salmon are engineered with a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon and genetic material from ocean pout (an eel-like creature).
AquaBounty wants to produce all the GE Atlantic salmon eggs on Prince Edward Island, ship them to Panama to grow out and then ship the processed fish to the US consumer market. This is only the first part of the company's plan - the plan they are seeking approval for now - they say they want to grow the fish in North America, Chile and other countries, in the future and the company has approval to grow the fish in Canada.
The GM Salmon is from Canada
Prince Edward Island, Canada is now home to the world's first GM fish and/or fish-egg production factory. In November 2013, Environment Canada announced its decision to allow production of the GM fish eggs and fish, anywhere in Canada. The company has a research facility at Bay Fortune in Prince Edward Island which it is turning into a fish-egg factory and it is now proposing to expand to a second PEI facility.
No One Wants GM Fish
- The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Association and the International Salmon Farmer's Association do not support the commercial production of GM fish.
- Grocery stores are now pledging not to use GM seafood.
The First GM Food Animal in the World?
The GM fish was in a race with the GM pig called “Enviropig” to become the first genetically engineered animal in our food system but the campaign led by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network stopped the GM pig in March 2012. The GM salmon would be the first GM food animal approved in the world.
Atlantic salmon are farmed in both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. The escape of farmed fish from either marine net pens or hatcheries is serious, reoccurring pollution that threatens species. For example, mature escaped Atlantic salmon have been recorded in streams in B.C..
To try to avoid a full review of these risks, AquaBounty is only seeking permission to raise the fish in a land-based facility in a “remote highland area” of Panama - even though they say they want to raise the fish in the U.S. and other countries. The company also says that all the fish will be sterile females, but admits they can only guarantee 95% of the salmon will be unable to reproduce.
Any risk of GM Atlantic salmon escaping into the wild is unacceptable, especially when Atlantic salmon are already in danger of disappearing.
Also, GM salmon could put even more pressure on marine ecosystems. The fast-growing GM salmon could consume up to five times more food than other farmed salmon - because salmon are carnivorous they actually eat large amounts of wild-harvested fish like anchovies and sardines, caught just to feed them.
Health Risks and Bad Science
Critics have long warned that the process of genetic engineering itself could possibly result in increased allergenicity and AquaBounty’s own data point to this potential in their GM salmon.
Dr. Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist at Consumers Union US, says, “The FDA is relying on woefully inadequate data. There is sloppy science, small sample sizes, and questionable practices.” For example, the company used insensitive tests to try and measure the levels of growth hormone in the GM salmon and the levels of IGF-1, a hormone linked to a number of cancers.
Watch the Presentation: "Is the GM Salmon Safe?"
"Is the GM Salmon Safe?: A look at the data on the health and environment risks" Featuring Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Consumers Union, US. International expert on the risk assessment of genetically modified organisms. Filmed May 13, 2013 in Charlottetown PEI.
- Watch the Video:http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/FlyingPage/4931/Guardian-live-broadcast
- View the Slides: (the slides in the video cannot be seen) Click here to download the accompanying PowerPoint slides.
What do we know about the GM salmon, proposed to come from PEI? A biologist and ecologist, Michael Hansen Ph.D. is a Senior Scientist at Consumers Union in the US. He also represents Consumers International, a federation of more than 250 organizations in 110 countries, on issues related to genetic engineering. Dr. Hansen was appointed as an international expert for two different FAO/WHO Joint Expert Consultations: Safety Assessment of Foods Derived from Genetically Modified Animals, including Fish (2003) and Safety Assessment of Foods Derived from Recombinant DNA Animals (2004).
August 2015: City Council in Victoria BC voted unanimously for a GE Free Victoria! Read about it here.
June 2015: Mohawk community of Akwesasne passes a resolution to ban genetically modified crops. "GMOs, we have no songs for. GMOs, we have no ceremonies for. Because that's not what the Creator made as seeds, that was made by man. So we don't have songs for them." See the news story.
Union of BC Municipalities votes to ask province to ban GE crops and animals
September 19, 2013 - In an unprecedented step, the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), at their Annual General Meeting in Vancouver, passed a resolution “that UBCM ask the British Columbia government to legislate the prohibition of importing, exporting and growing plants and seeds containing genetically engineered DNA, and raising GE animals within BC, and to declare, through legislation, that BC is a GE Free area in respect to all plant and animal species."
Already 16 municipalities in BC have declared themselves GE Free Zones, and 10 Official Community Plans of Regional Districts have come out against GE crops, as communities across the province mobilized for a ban on GE crops.
Press Release - September 19, 2013: Union of BC Municipalities Asks Province to Ban GE Crops and Animals
GE Free Zones in Canada
Our definition of a GE Free Zone is a municipality or group of municipalities that has passed a resolution against genetically engineered (GE) crops and animals within its jurisdiction.
- Powell River, BC (2004)
- Salt Spring Island, BC (2004)
- Denman Island, BC (2004)
- Nelson, BC (Nov 3, 2008)
- Kaslo, BC (Jan 13, 2009)
- New Denver, BC (Sept 8, 2009)
- Rossland, BC (May 11, 2009)
- Richmond, BC (May 29, 2012)
- Saanich, BC (Nov 2012)
- Metchosin, BC (Nov 2012)
- Cherryville and Rural Lumby, BC (March 8, 2013)
- Telkwa, BC(March 11, 2013)
- Bulkley-Nacheko, BC (March 2013)
- City of North Vancouver, BC (June 10, 2013)
- Roberts Creek, BC
- Village of Anmore, BC (April 2015)
- Akwesasne, Quebec (June 2015)
- Victoria. BC (August 2016)
51 municipalities within the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC, resolution passed April 2013 – for AVICC members go here http://avicc.ca/about-the-avicc/avicc-members-2/)
You can join the efforts of the CBAN Member Group, GE Free BC
City of North Vancouver votes unanimously to become a GE Free zone
10th June, 2013: This evening the City of North Vancouver became a GE Free zone. Councillors who were originally doubtful changed their mind during the meeting after a number of community members made forceful presentations about the importance of this issue. Congratulations to all the campaigners who worked on this, the next piece in the puzzle to making the whole of BC GE Free.
On March 11, 2013 in Telkwa BC this resolution was passed: "Whereas the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) in agricultural activities is inconsistent with the Village of Telkwa's Official Community Plan and Integrated Community Sustainability Plan; and whereas the nature of cross pollination is not limited by municipal boundaries; be it resolved that the use of GMO's for agricultural purposes is unwelcome in the Village of Telkwa"
On March 8, 2013 Cherryville became the 11th BC municipality to pass a resolution to ban GMO crops! Local volunteer group Bee SAFE, held a public meeting at the Cherryville hall to discuss how GMO crops affect other crops. “There is no co-existence possible between GMO crops and other crops – by not deciding to ban them, we're deciding to ban every other type of agriculture and to put the future of our food and our farms in the hands of corporations like Monsanto, who own patents on GMO seeds” said Huguette Allen. Congratulations Cherryville!
2012: Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District passes a resolution against the GE apple, which is approved by all BC municipalities at the Union of BC Municipalities in September 2012
May 29, 2012 Press Release: Richmond City Council Finalizes GE Free Zone
Richmond City Council (British Columbia) unanimously confirmed a decision to make the city a GE Free Zone. Following the initial unanimous decision by the General Purposes Committee on May 24, 250 Richmond residents turned out last night to support final approval at City Council. The biotechnology industry lobby group CropLife presented in a failed effort to dissuade councilors from approving the resolution. Instead, teachers, parents, farmers, high school students, and other ordinary citizens prevailed - they packed City Hall and spent almost 3 hours making 5-minute presentations to City Council.
The City of Richmond agreed to oppose the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE, also called genetically modified or GM) plants and trees in the City, making an exception for the 3 dairy farms that already grow GM corn. The resolution states, “no further GM crops, trees or plants should be grown in the City of Richmond. This also includes GM fruit trees, all GM plants and shrubbery, GM vegetables, GM commodity crops and any and all field tests for medical and experimental GM crops.” The City also agreed to send letters to all levels of government “requesting strengthened management of genetically modified plants, and including the introduction of mandatory labelling requirements, more transparent assessment procedures and enhanced communication with the public.” The Richmond Food Security Society and the Society for a Genetically Free (GE) BC introduced the resolution in 2010. Richmond is a municipality of almost 200,000 people to the south of Vancouver in British Columbia and has about 200 farms.
The Society for a GE Free BC with GE Free Kootenays, and GE Free Yukon are working hard to secure GE Free Zones.
City of Rossland, B.C. Adopts G.E. Free Resolution
May 11, 2009: “Moved by Councillor Charlton / Seconded by Councillor Spearn
THAT the City of Rossland oppose the cultivation of genetically engineered plants and trees, by using transgenic engineering, in the municipality; and that the City of Rossland will not purchase genetically engineered plants and trees for its own use; and that the City of Rossland agrees to revisit the resolution as pertinent new information becomes available that affects this resolution; and the City of Rossland shall forward copies of this resolution to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Union of B.C. Municipalities, Interior Health, B.C. Ministry of Health, B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, B.C. Provincial Health Officer, the Prime Minister of Canada, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada, CropLife Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, local MLA and MP offices and any interested and related groups. “
City of Nelson Passes GE-Free Resolution
November 3, 2008: "The City of Nelson does not support the cultivation of genetically engineered plants and trees in the Municipality of Nelson and further that council will not purchase for its own operations GE plants or trees. The City of Nelson agrees to revisit this as pertinent new information becomes available that affects this resolution and further that the City of Nelson shall forward copies of the resolution to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Union of BC Municipalities, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada, CropLife Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, local MLA and MP offices and any interested and related groups for comment."
The Growing Threat: Genetically engineered trees and the future of our forests
Speakers tour of the Pacific Northwest now includes Vancouver BC Oct 21 and Victoria BC Oct 22! Featuring Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher, EcoNexus, UK.
Vancouver, Wednesday October 21, 2015. 7:00-9:00PM, Unitarian Church, 949 W 49th Ave.
Victoria, Thursday October 22 - Details coming soon.
Genetically Engineered (GE) trees threaten the biodiversity of native forests, are false solutions to the climate change crisis and can have unpredictable and irreversible consequences. The Pacific Northwest is key as it hosts some of the leading global research on GE Trees. Join us on our tour about the dangers of GE Trees.
- Click here for the speakers biographies.
- Contact us to get posters, flyers or information on GE trees in Canada.
News - September 28, 2015: A plan by activists in the US to inform the President and CEO of ArborGen that over 250,000 people signed letters and petitions rejecting Genetically Engineered (GE) Trees was interrupted when police arrested the two people who intended to deliver that message. Click here to read the details.
Groups can sign on to the demand to ban GE trees in Canada: Click here to sign on
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.
GE Tree Field Trials in Canada:
- In Canada, there have been only one or two field trials in any given year since 1997.
- Since 2000, open-air field tests have only been carried out by government researchers at the Canadian Forest Service, not by private companies.
- There is testing on genetically engineered poplar at the Laurentian Forestry Centre in Quebec and at Queen's University, Ontario.
- A list of GE tree field trials is posted in CBAN's GMO Inquiry 2015 Report Are GM Crops Better for the Environment?
- New! October 2015: Genetically Engineered Trees, CBAN Factsheet
- Genetically Engineered Trees: Basic Background
- GE Trees, Cellulosic Biofuels & Destruction of Forest Biological DIversity 2008
“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
- In Alberta: The Alberta Forest Genetic Resources Council “does not recommend the use of GMOs for reforestation at this time”
- 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.
The Canadian Forest Service is conducting field trials of GE poplar trees 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.
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 because 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.
March 5, 2015 300 peasants took over the building where CTNBio was meeting to decide about whether to approve GE eucalyptus trees. The meeting was cancelled. On the same morning, 1,000 women took over operations of Futuragene across Brazil. The action included the destruction of GE eucalyptus seedlings. Click here for photos and details.
Tuesday March 3 2015 was an emergency global day of action against GE trees because the Brazilian Biosafety Commission (CTNBio) is meeting Thursday 5 March to decide whether or not to legalize the commercial development of genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees in the country.
Press Release - January 29 2015: Outrage Over US Secret Approval of Genetically Engineered Trees: Groups Condemn US for Bowing to Industry, Ignoring Widespread Public Opposition
"Approvals of genetically engineered trees just over our border could put Canada's forest ecosystems at risk. The loblolly pine is grown in the US southeast but what forest trees could the US government approve next? The Canadian government needs to look into the possible contamination risks from GE tree experiments and approvals in the US, and field trials in our own backyard," said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of CBAN 613 809 1103 email@example.com
"We do not have confidence that scientists in biotechnology labs can outsmart millions of years of evolution, nor understand and anticipate all of the intricacies, shifting dynamics or interactions that make up ecology and evolution" - Rachel Smolker, BiofuelWatch
Article, March 2015:Genetically Engineered Trees: A Cure Worse than the Disease, Rachel Smolker, CommonDreams
Article, December 2014: Engineering Chestnut Trees? Biotechnology Takes a Walk in the Wood, Rachel Smolker
Press Release, September 4, 2014: Groups unite to call on Brazil to deny application to legalize genetically engineered eucalyptus trees Two letters signed by hundreds of organizations from around the world, including CBAN, 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 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, The Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), La Via Campesina Brazil, and the Small Farmers Movement (MPA).
FuturaGene, a biotechnology firm owned by Brazilian pulp and paper company Suzano, has requested authorization from the Brazilian Biosafety Commission (CTNBio) for the commercial release of its genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in Brazil.
- The Brazilian open letter explains, if approved, use of GE eucalyptus trees will aggravate the already well-known negative impacts that non-GE industrial eucalyptus tree plantations already pose to communities´ livelihoods.
- The supporting letter protesting the legalization of genetically engineered trees
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
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.
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.
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.
May 4, 2010, Press Release - New Studies Expose Potential Risks of GMO Trees
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.
- Click here to read the CBAN briefing to the United Nations meeting. (6 pages)
- This briefing is a critique of the background document prepared by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. (17 pages)
- CBAN has also signed the international open letter demanding a ban on genetically engineered (GE) trees.