Briefing Paper on Transgenic Trees

Implications for Human Health, Biodiversity and Biosafety

March 2006

Joint briefing paper issued by: Global Justice Ecology Project, EcoNexus, Friends of the Earth International, Global Forest Forum and World Rainforest Movement

The damaging effects of conventional industrial mono-culture tree plantations is already well-documented. The addition of transgenic tree plantations can only worsen these existing problems. Add to this the utter lack of credible risk assessment of transgenic tree release,
especially on a global scale, and it becomes a matter of common sense that there must not be any further forward motion in the commercial development of transgenic tree plantations. The UN CBD must impose a moratorium on the technology and launch a thorough and global examination of the risks of this technology.

Who’s in Charge?

September 2004

Daniel Bennett with Helena Paul

Corporations are treated as if they are people or "persons" under the law. The first Corporations were charities. The first Corporations to act for commercial ends did so fraudulently.
But what are Corporations? Where did they come from? How did they become so powerful?

Golden Rice, Patents and Vitamin A Deficiency

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October 2003

by Helena Paul and Ricarda Steinbrecher

‘Golden Rice’ first caught the headlines in 2000. Genetically engineered with 3 genes from daffodils and bacteria, this GM rice has been designed to produce pro-vitamin A. Claimed by GM proponents and biotech industry as the answer to vitamin A deficiency (VAD), others see it as a diversion from relatively low-cost, but effective, initiatives, which can help people to achieve a better diet almost immediately. Furthermore, the experience of Southern farmers is that intensive rice production with the use of high chemical inputs ended their integrated farming systems. Such systems included other food sources such as fish, snails, water fowl and green leafy vegetables to provide a wide range of essential nutrients including (pro)vitamin A. ‘Golden Rice’ has still not been tested for environmental or food safety nor assessed for socio-economic impacts.

Argentina and GM soya

The Cost of Complying with US Pressure

October 2003

by Helena Paul and Ricarda Steinbrecher

Soya is not bringing wealth to Argentina.
"We are being occupied by the seed multinationals that have patented life and are forcing us to pay tribute to them," says Jorge Eduardo Rulli, one of Argentina’s leading agronomists. "The more we produce the poorer we become."

The CaMV 35S Promoter

Government and Corporate Scientific Incompetence: Failure to assess the safety of GM crops

December 2002

by Ricarda A. Steinbrecher

The CaMV 35S promoter is being used in almost all GM crops currently grown or tested, especially GM maize. It is the promoter of choice for plant genetic engineering, as it is a strong and constitutive promoter. Failure to recognise or to take into account its capacity to be universally active in almost any organism is irresponsible and careless and shows a serious lack of scientific rigour and commitment to safety.
Any safety assessment can be expected to be flawed that does not resort to actual laboratory test of the capacity of bacteria and fungi to utilise the particular genes and their promoters.

Patenting Genes

Stifling Research and Jeopardising Healthcare

April 2001

joint EcoNexus/ GeneWatch publication

Three examples show that patents on genes and gene fragments seriously threaten future medical research. They can stifle research and collaboration and increase prices through patent monopolies, neither of which serve the public interest. A review of gene patents - both granted and pending over the last few years - is long overdue. In particular, the case of the CCR5 gene and AIDS clearly highlights the folly of granting broad patents for all medical applications. The simplest solution is for genes and gene fragments to be made unpatentable – political action is needed now before the companies clean up on gene patents and society is left counting the cost.

Genetic Dialectic

The Biological Politics of Genetically Modified Trees

December 2000

by Viola Sampson and Larry Lohmann

The processes through which genetically engineered trees are being developed are profoundly biased against social arrangements which promote and rely on biological diversity. These processes are also riven by dilemmas and destructive tendencies which chains of technical refinements, no matter how long, are likely to be powerless to overcome. Tackling the challenge GM trees pose means tackling the industrial and bureaucratic tradition which seeks the radical simplification of landscapes. That entails alliance-building with groups working against or outside that tradition, from seed savers to communities battling encroachment of industrial tree farms on their land.
In these respects, the issues raised by GM trees are similar to those raised by GM crops. Yet in many ways, genetic modification in forestry is an even more serious issue than genetic engineering in agriculture. Trees’ long lives and largely undomesticated status, their poorly understood biology and lifecycles, the complexity and fragility of forest ecosystems, and corporate and state control over enormous areas of forest land on which GM trees could be planted combine to create risks which are unique. The biosafety and social implications of the application of genetic engineering to forestry are grave enough to warrant both an immediate halt to releases of GM trees and renewed attention to the social, historical and political roots of the tree biotech boom.

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