sábado, septiembre 30, 2006


Friends of the Earth Europe
Press Release

For Immediate Release: Friday 29th Sept

Brussels, 29th September 2006 – Friends of the Earth Europe has today called for alternative ways to deal with environmental trade disputes. The call comes as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) publishes its final ruling on the transatlantic trade dispute on genetically modified (GM) foods [1]. Friends of the Earth Europe believes that there will be "no clear winners but many losers" in today's ruling, the longest in WTO history.

Adrian Bebb, GM food Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said, "Whatever the World Trade Organisation says, the dispute over genetically modified foods has created no clear winners but many losers. The public faces contaminated foods resulting from weak regulations in the United States and farmers see their livelihoods threatened by contamination. This trade dispute has been a pointless exercise that will change absolutely nothing. Europeans will continue to reject genetically modified foods." [2]

The WTO ruling will be substantially the same as the 'draft ruling', which was leaked to Friends of the Earth Europe in February. The draft ruling rejected most of the US-led complaints:

* It refused to rule against strict EU regulations to control the use of GM food and crops;

* It refused to rule on whether GM foods are safe or different to conventional foods;

* It rejected US claims that moratoria are illegal and did not question the right of countries to ban GM foods or crops.

However, the WTO draft ruling did rule - on technicalities - that Europe's four year GM moratorium, which ended in 2004, broke trade rules by causing "undue delays", but stated that moratoria were acceptable under certain circumstances. The WTO said national GM bans also broke trade rules, but only because the risk assessments did not comply with the WTO requirements.

Sonja Meister, Trade Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) said, "This ruling shows that the WTO is the wrong forum to deal with environmental trade disputes and the international community must find an alternative before another case occurs. The WTO ignored international environmental laws, met in secret behind closed doors and barred any public involvement, even though we have a strong public resistance against GMOs in Europe."

The Biosafety Protocol is one international agreement that was ignored by the WTO in the biotechnology trade dispute. It allows nations to use a precautionary approach, giving them the right to ban GMOs if there are concerns about their impacts on health and the environment.

Friends of the Earth Europe suggests the International Court of Arbitration or the International Court of Justice as possible alternatives to the WTO to settle trade disputes over environmental matters. [3]


For more information, please contact:
Adrian Bebb, GMO Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe:
Tel: +49 80 25 99 19 51; Mobile: +49 1609 4901163; Email: adrian.bebb@foeeurope.org
Sonja Meister, Trade Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe:
Tel: +32 25 42 61 00; Mobile: +32 484 975107; Email: sonja.meister@foeeurope.org
Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer at Friends of the Earth Europe:
Tel: +32 25 42 61 05; Mobile: +32 485 930515; Email: rosemary.hall@foeeurope.org


[1] The final report from the WTO is due to be published at 1630 today (29th October 2006)

[2] Since the trade dispute started, Hungary, Greece, Austria and Poland have introduced new bans on GM products. In addition 174 European regions and 4500 smaller areas are calling for restrictions on GM crops. See http://www.gmofree-europe.org

Long grain rice imports from the United States were found to be contaminated with a genetically modified variant in August 2006. The GM rice in question was produced by the multinational Bayer. It was grown in outdoor experimental trials in the US five years ago, which probably were not contained properly, allowing contamination of conventional supplies. The rice has never been subject to a full scientific investigation and never been approved safe for human consumption. It is very likely that citizens in the EU have eaten the illegal genetically modified rice before and even since the contamination was discovered.

[3] "Is the WTO the only way? Safeguarding Multilateral Environmental Agreements from international trade rules and settling trade disputes outside the WTO." Briefing paper from Greenpeace, Adelphi Research and Friends of the Earth Europe.

See: http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2005/alternatives_wto.pdf



September 29 2006

Open letter to Food Administrations representatives

Dear Madam, Dear Sir,

This summer, in several world locations, traces of artificial genetic constructions (AGC) were found in food which was not supposed to have been genetically modified.

In the UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands and France, GM-free long-grain rice imported from the USA unexpectedly contained a molecule (PAT protein) making it tolerant to the herbicide Liberty® . In France, the UK and Germany, noodles and rice sticks imported from China, on sale on supermarkets, contained a pesticide (Bt protein) with significant potential allergenicity. In Nicaragua, almost all samples of maize flour and cereals provided by the United Nations World Food Programme have been found to host AGCs. In China, in 2005, the GeneScan independent laboratory had already discovered Bt traces in baby food.

Thus, the genetic contamination will have reached a global scale in 2006.

This would not be so worrying if these transferred genetic constructions had at least been approved for human consumption and clearly shown on their host food label, after truly independent scientific assessment had been carried out.

This would not be so worrying if Health & Food Administrations of the concerned countries had been alerted soon enough to avoid the food chain to be touched.

In every country, the approval procedure of a GM product is based on documents provided by the applicant itself. For instance, a recent statement of the American Food & Drug Administration (FDA) concerning the LLRICE601, resistant to an herbicide, relies on information provided by its promoter (Bayer) . This declaration is based upon the wrong assumption that the safe natural gene which expresses the PAT protein is equivalent to the artificial construction AGC which is inserted into the host organism. As a matter of fact, serious health problems encountered by laboratory animals fed with GM food can be attributed to an AGC, whereas the natural version of the gene it contains is definitely safe . Furthermore, the accused GM rice has been discontinued in 2001. Given the recognized high instability of an AGC , there is no evidence that the molecular characteristics studied years ago have been preserved.

Therefore, the contaminant GM products, as well as the contaminated ones, can be considered as unfit for human consumption until unequivocal evidence to the contrary is provided by independent scientific assessment.

With respect to the time-delayed and insufficient reactions of the Food Standards Agencies, the US rice case is also illustrative:

- The Riceland cooperative discovered the contamination in January, but did not notify the public nor the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA).

- Bayer knew about this in June, but did not inform the USDA until July 31.

- The USDA hid the contamination during three more weeks, anticipating that foreign rice importers might reject the product.

- September 15, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) GMO Panel issued a Statement which says that "the available (US) data are not sufficient to allow the safety of LLRICE601 to be assessed in accordance with EFSA guidance for risk assessment and EFSA is unable to carry out a full risk assessment". Notably based upon the assumed low inadvertent presence of LLRICE601, as well as on the debatable equivalence between the natural gene and its AGC, the contaminated rice consumption "is not likely to pose an imminent safety concern to humans or animals".

Since last January, at least 140,000 tonnes of this contaminated rice has been exported to Europe, and may now be present in the food chain and consumed by millions of people, including babies.

Although rice imports were stopped late August by Japan , and then by the European Commission, no satisfactory plans have been put in place yet to recall contaminated food; European national authorities have only been reminded of their duty to make sure contaminated products are destroyed. In the case of the US rice, Bayer is trying to escape lawsuits instead, by inducing the deregulation of the status of the contaminant LLRICE601.

This is why we call on you to act so that current contaminated products be immediately recalled and that the related assessment tools be used in the future for preventing other contaminations of the food-chain, a measure that would notably improve your credibility in the sight of the citizens. Despite the known strong influence of the industrial lobby, we hope that you still have the power to decide what the main priorities are in placing health and safety considerations above economical ones.

Thank you very much in advance for urgently taking that path.

Organisational Signatories:

Instituto Para la Produccion e InvestigaciOn de la Agricultura Tropical - IPIAT (Venezuela) Plataforma Transgènics Fora ! (Spain) Red "Bolivia Libre de Transgenicos" (Bolivia) Uniterre syndicate, member of Via Campesina and Coordination Paysanne Europeenne – CPE (Switzerland) Tierra Viva (Bolivia) Friends of the Earth - France Fédération Nationale d’Agriculture Biologique des régions de France –FNAB (France) Collectif des Faucheurs Volontaires de la Region Centre (France) Comite Local d'ATTAC-Pays d'Aubagne (France)


Dr. Masaharu Kawata, Yokkaichi University, Yokkaichi (Japan) Dr. Erzsebet Barat, Central European University, Budapest (Hungary) Dr. Michel Somville, Biologist, Conseiller en genetique et bioethique du Groupe des Verts au Parlement europeen, Brussels (Belgium) Dr. CS Pawar, Advisor, Shree Vivekanand Research and Training Institute, Kutch, Gujarat (India) Dr. Pablo Achard, Neuroscientist, Anvers (Belgium) Dr. Brian Tokar, Biotechnology Project Director, Institute for Social Ecology, Vermont (USA) Dr. Yamama Naciri, Unité de Phylogénie et Génétique Moléculaires, Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques de la Ville de Genève (Switzerland) Dr. Jeremy Thompson, Slought (UK) Dr. Miroslaw Szulczynski, Environmental biotechnology, frankfurt (Germany) Dr. Christian Velot, Scientific board of the Comité de Recherche et d'Informations Indépendantes sur le Genie Genetique (CRII GEN) ; Inst. of Genetics and Microbiology (France) Dr. Claude Seureau, Biologist (France) Dr. Lilian Ceballos, Pharmacologist (France) Dr. Jacques Testart, Biologist, Senior Researcher, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale – INSERM (France) Dr. Didier Collumeau, Agronomist, Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Agronomie de Rennes (France) Dr. Yannick Comenge, Microbiologist, Paris (France) Dr. François M. Catzeflis, biologist, (France) Dr. Jean-Pierre Berlan, Research Director, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - INRA (France) Dr. Dominique Cellier, Conseil Scientifique du CRIIGEN, Universite de Rouen (France) Dr. Yves Chilliard, Nutritionnist, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - INRA (France) Dr Paul Lannoye, Depute europeen honoraire, Membre du CRIIGEN (France) Dr. Dominique Béroule, Computer Scientist, Chevreuse (France) Organisations representatives:

Mrs Ryoko Shimizu, Policy Research Institute for the Civil Sector - PRICS, Tokyo (Japan) Mrs Maria Hamlin Zuniga, MPH, Centro de Informacion y Servicios de Asesoría en Salud, Managua (Nicaragua) Mrs Annick Ferauge, Collectif d’Action GènEthique - CAGE ; Attac-Wallonie, (Belgium) Mrs Catherine Marielle, Coordinadora Programa Sistemas Alimentarios Sustentables, Grupo de Estudios Ambientales (GEA) AC, Mexico (Mexico) Mrs Georgina Catacora, Red para una América Libre de Trangénicos – RALLT (Bolivia) Mrs Géraldine Savary, president, Stop OGM, conseillère nationale vaudoise (Switzerland) Mrs Corinne Lepage, former Minister, President of CAP 21 (France) Mrs Monique Marquet, Vice Présidente à l'environnement, Mouvement Ecologiste Indépendant (France) Mrs Anna Massina, President, Coord de l'Action Non-Violente de l'Arche de Lanza del Vasto - CANVA (France) Mrs Marie-Hélène Thuillier, Attac-Vosges (France) Mrs Martine Bonnet, President, Regain Nature (France) Mr Keisuke Amagasa, President, Citizen's Biotechnology Information Center, Tokyo (Japan) Mr Miguel Angel Núñez, Mr Pedro Reyes Millan, Mr Enrique Gonzales, Mrs Gidalsy Jimenez, Mr Alejandro Maldonado, Mr Ignacio Birriel, Mrs Jimena Sosa, Mr Leonardo Verraes, Mr Aldo Gonzales, Mr Luis Belran Núñez, Mr Cesar Alejandro Gonzales, Mr Eduardo LaPadula, Mr Carlos Palacios, Mr Jose Guerrero, Mrs Itzamana Núñez, Mrs Karibay Núñez, Mr Vladimir Aguilar, Mr Luis Aguilar, Mr Jess Montilla, Mr Andres Avellaneda, Mr William Goitía, Mr Juan Ferreira, Mr Pedro Urbina, Mr Felix Dirinot, Mr Freddy Eizaga, Mr Leoner Medina : Instituto Para la Produccion e Investigación de la Agricultura Tropical - IPIAT, Barinas (Venezuela) Mr Gerald Miles, GM Free Cymru, Genetic Engineering Network - GEN UK; GM Freeze, Wales (UK) Mr Sylvain Fattebert, StopOGM Coordination romande sur le genie genetique, (Switzerland) Mr Eric Delhaye, Spokeman of CAP21 (France) Mr Christophe de Varine, Porte-parole du Collectif Pour une Franche-Comte sans OGM (France) Mr Dietrich Taussig, Federal Union of Consumers "Que Choisir", Aix-en-Provence (France) Mr André Lefebvre, Ingenieur agrobiologiste, Directeur du Service d'EcoDéveloppement Agricole et Rural de Bourgogne (France) Mr Aurelien Bernier, head of the Attac "GMO Committee" (France) Mr Didier Vallet, president, Syndicat d'Agriculture Bio-Dynamique, Colmar (France) Individual signatories:

Mrs Yannick Phillips, California (USA), Mrs Marisela Yábar Larios, Ing. , Lima (Peru) Mrs Geneviève Perret, Genève (Switzerland) Mrs Ute Sprenger, consultant in environmental issues, Berlin (Germany) Mrs Michèle Bufferne Khamtache, Fontaines sur Saône (France) Mr Ángeles Leonardo, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (Argentina) Mr Dominique Schoeni, Ethnologist, Genève (Switzerland) Mr Henri Deprez, Brussels (Belgium) Mr Pascal Peduzzi, Environmental sciences (Switzerland) Mr Daniel Evain, Agronomist, former Researcher at Monsanto (France) Mr Serge Raynaud, Le Revest (France) Mr Jean-Claude Lacour, Epinal (France) Mr Patrick Monnet, Lyon (France) Mr Franck Loiseau, teacher, Cholet (France)

viernes, septiembre 29, 2006

Rice Industry: Keep Genetically Engineered Varieties in the Lab

By Jeffrey M. Smith

The US rice industry can take a lesson from Hawaiian coffee growers. In 2004, the University of Hawaii and others were getting dangerously close to conducting outdoor trials of genetically modified (GM) coffee—plants whose DNA had been artificially inserted with genes from other species. Growers throughout the state knew if their premium coffee became contaminated with GM varieties, it would threaten their markets.

The growers rejected claims that small buffer zones around GM fields would protect them. Bees carry pollen for miles. GM crops can get mixed up by human error. And everyone on the islands knows that seeds naturally travel. (Consider Hawaii’s conversion from lava rock to a lush paradise.)

They extracted a promise from the University to discontinue studies that could lead to outdoor GM coffee trials, saving their farms from contamination. Not so for the rice industry, which just saw world markets close and prices plummet after unapproved GM rice escaped from field trials, contaminating US stocks. Japan stopped buying long grain US rice, products were taken off shelves in Europe and the industry may lose $150 million or more.

Amid the lawsuits and rejected shipments, the rice industry must now decide whether to belatedly follow the coffee growers’ example. They can tell the government and five multinational GM crop companies, “No more GM rice trials!” Or they can continue to risk costly episodes of contamination. And for what? To share the fate of soybean and corn growers?

In 1996, biotech companies introduced GM soy and corn varieties that could either withstand herbicide or produce pesticides in every cell. Although the new technology was largely hidden from American shoppers, the European press did extensive coverage and consumers there were not pleased. In a single week in April 1999, food companies throughout the continent responded by vowing to remove GM ingredients from their European brands. Japanese companies followed suit and American agriculture has yet to recover.

The corn industry lost their $300 million European market; US soy sales also plunged. The government poured an extra $2-3 billion per year in price support subsidies. And many non-GM growers were forced to pay for costly segregation programs just to keep their customers. The promise of higher yields, lower chemical use and weed-free living through GM crops turned into slightly lower average yields, significantly higher herbicide use and the emergence of superweeds that resist weed killer. Many who were once enthusiastic about GM technology are saying “Come back in 50 to 100 years when you’ve done your homework.”

The Biotech PR firms want the rice industry and others to believe that gene inserted crops are catching on around the world. In reality, studies show that the more people learn about GM food, the less they want to put it in their mouth. The main reason why most US consumers are complacent is that they don’t know about the issue. Sixty percent say they have never eaten a GM food in their lives. In truth, most eat it everyday—usually in the form of soy and corn derivatives in processed foods.

When Americans find out that they have been eating GM ingredients, they usually assume that the FDA has tested it and proven it safe. Not true. Documents made public from a lawsuit revealed that FDA scientists had repeatedly warned their superiors that GM foods might create unpredictable, hard-to-detect allergies, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. They urged political appointees to require long-term safety studies. But the person in charge of FDA policy was the former attorney (and later vice president) of biotech giant Monsanto. And the agency was under orders from the White House to promote GM crops. The policy that was adopted in 1992, and still stands, is that no safety tests whatsoever are required by the FDA. Thus, varieties that had never been rigorously safety tested with animals, and probably never even fed to humans, were approved for sale.

Evidence of adverse reactions is mounting. >From the tiny number of safety studies that have been conducted, animals treated with GM crops show stunted growth, impaired immune systems, bleeding stomachs, potentially precancerous cell growth, damaged and misshapen cells, inflamed kidneys, smaller brains and testicles, enlarged intestines, reduced digestive enzymes, higher blood sugar, inflamed lung tissue, increased death rates and higher offspring mortality, to name a few. Reports from the field are less encouraging. Two dozen US farmers say that sterility in pigs or cows is related to GM corn varieties. Seventy-one Indian shepherds report that 25% of their sheep died from grazing on GM cotton plants. Filipinos in at least 5 villages fell sick when nearby GM corn was pollinating. And hundreds of laborers in India developed allergic reactions after handling GM cotton. Soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK soon after GM soy was introduced. And in the 1980s, a GM food supplement killed about 100 Americans and caused sickness and disability in another 5,000-10,000.

If this information makes you uneasy, consider what will happen when millions of US consumers learn that high-risk GM foods are in their baby’s formula and kids’ breakfast cereal. The reaction may force US food manufacturers to repeat the vows of their European counterparts. The corn and soy growers would surely be hit even harder than before.

How will the rice industry fare? That depends on what they choose now. But the choice is not just with rice growers. What about those who deal in lettuce, barley, sunflowers and plums? Most vegetables, fruits and grains have GM counterparts in some stage of development. And behind that variety stands a biotech company, more than willing to grow it field trials and risk the food industry’s markets. Even the US wheat growers remain in danger. They had forced Monsanto to abandon plans to introduce GM wheat in May 2004, but unlike Hawaii’s coffee growers, they can still be contaminated from outdoor field trials.

It is time that US producers take charge and say to the biotech industry, “You can grow your GM crops only when we are ready to take that risk. Until then, keep it in the lab.”

Jeffrey M. Smith is the author of Seeds of Deception, the world’s bestselling book on GM foods. His forthcoming book, Genetic Roulette, documents more than 60 health risks of GM foods in easy-to-read two-page spreads, and demonstrates how current safety assessments are not competent to protect consumers from the dangers. He is available for media at info@seedsofdeception.com.

Etiquetas: , ,

Don't Cry to Them, Argentina

Is Monsanto playing fast and loose with Roundup Ready Soybeans in Argentina?

By Kelly Hearn
22 Sep 2006

Crying not for Argentina but for lost patent fees, Monsanto's legal hacks are in European courts suing to block millions of tons of Argentine soybean meal from docking on the continent.

Monsanto says that much of the meal crossing the Atlantic to feed Europe's cows and pigs contains traces of its genetically modified Roundup Ready Soybeans. Known as RR, the soybeans are tweaked to withstand the company's Roundup herbicide. This resistance lets farmers blanket entire fields with the chemical mixture rather than surgically applying it to kill off weeds.

Monsanto holds a patent for the seed in Europe, but not in Argentina, where a dispute over technology rights keeps the U.S.-based agri-giant from collecting technology fees on RR seed sales. By using its European patent to disrupt Argentina's lucrative soy-meal trade with Europe, the company hopes to strong-arm Argentine farmers into paying up.

Meanwhile, the tricky lawyering is shedding light on what critics say is a dubious corporate strategy to make Argentina a mega-lab for GM soybeans, one that's already spawned deep environmental and economic problems far off the radar screen of the international media.

Etiquetas: ,

jueves, septiembre 28, 2006

Hugo Bértola

La convivencia o coexistencia con los transgénicos implica, tras una aparente conciliación, neutral y liberal, su imposición, que avasalla y cuestiona la viabilidad misma de una agricultura sustentable... El costo más obvio, perverso y tangible para los productores rurales: la expulsión, o éxodo rural; el desarraigo, producido ininterrumpidamente durante las últimas décadas. Esta tecnología, por sus características, acelera y profundiza la concentración y extranjerización de la tierra y la producción. ¿Cuánto costó al país, en estas últimas décadas, la "industrialización" y especialización de la agricultura?


miércoles, septiembre 27, 2006


Nanotechnology Risks Unknown
Insufficient Attention Paid to Potential Dangers, Report Says

By Rick Weiss

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 26, 2006; A12

The United States is the world leader in nanotechnology -- the newly blossoming science of making incredibly small materials and devices -- but is not paying enough attention to the environmental, health and safety risks posed by nanoscale products, says a report released yesterday by the independent National Research Council.

If federal officials, business leaders and others do not devise a plan to fill the gaps in their knowledge of nanotech safety, the report warns, the field's great promise could evaporate in a cloud of public mistrust.

"There is some evidence that engineered nanoparticles can have adverse effects on the health of laboratory animals," the congressionally mandated report said, echoing concerns raised by others at a House hearing last week. Until the risks are better understood, "it is prudent to employ some precautionary measures to protect the health and safety of workers, the public, and the environment."

The 176-page report, "A Matter of Size," was prepared under the auspices of the National Academies, chartered to advise Congress on matters of science. It focuses on the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which coordinates and prioritizes federal research in nanotechnology -- the fledgling but potentially revolutionary science that deals with materials as small as a billionth of a meter.

At that size, even conventional substances behave in unconventional ways. Some materials that do not conduct electricity or are fragile, for example, are excellent conductors and are extremely strong when made small enough. But nanoparticles can also enter human cells and trigger chemical reactions in soil, interfering with biological and ecological processes.

The report concludes that the U.S. research effort is vibrant and almost certainly the strongest in the world, though a few other countries are close behind. Among the more important unmet needs, it says, is stronger collaboration with the departments of Education and Labor to boost the supply of scientists and technicians with the skills the sector needs.

The report's concerns about the lack of a federal focus on nanotech health and safety were foreshadowed at a House Science Committee hearing Thursday at which Republicans and Democrats alike took the Bush administration to task over the lack of a plan to learn more about nanotech's risks.

Committee Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.) accused the administration of "sauntering" toward solutions "at a time when a sense of urgency is required."

Ranking Democrat Bart Gordon (Tenn.) went further, calling the administration's latest summary of nanotech research needs, released at the hearing, "a very juvenile piece of work."

Andrew Maynard, chief science adviser for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, funded in part by the Smithsonian Institution, said the government is spending about $11 million a year on nanotechnology's potential harms when industry and environmental groups have jointly called for at least $50 million to $100 million a year.

Equally important, Maynard said, is the need for a coordinated strategy to spend that money wisely.

About 300 consumer products already contain nanoscale ingredients, Maynard said, including several foods and many cosmetics, with little or no research to document their safety.

The industry is expected to be worth about $2 trillion by 2014.

Norris Alderson, associate commissioner for science at the Food and Drug Administration and chairman of the working group that created the administration's summary research plan presented to Congress last week, said the document -- which was supposed to be delivered six months ago -- was meant as "a first step."

Asked by Boehlert if he understood that much more is expected of him and his working group, Alderson responded: "I think your message is loud and clear."


martes, septiembre 26, 2006

Transgénicos en Puerto Rico


En pañales la biotecnología

Por Associated Press
* (03:31 p.m.) Una experta aseguró que en la Isla, la ciencia es sólo utilizada para producir semillas que se exportan a EE.UU.

PONCE — La biotecnología en Puerto Rico aún está en etapas preliminares y se utiliza para producir semillas que se exportan a Estados Unidos, Europa y Brasil, señaló hoy Judith Rivera, de la empresa Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.

“Es un tema que está en pañales. Prácticamente, lo que hay aquí son las compañías de desarrollo de semillas con nueva tecnología para los agricultores en los Estados Unidos, en Europa y Brasil, donde se siembra maíz, soya, girasol y sorgo, que son los principales de productos de granos”, indicó.

Rivera, experta en agricultura biotecnológica, disertó en la Pontificia Universidad sobre el tema.

Señaló que si esos cultivos se quieren desarrollar en la Isla, el Departamento de Agricultura y Estación Experimental Agrícola de la Universidad de Puerto Rico “tendrían que hacer investigaciones” sobre productos que se cultivan en el trópico.

Opinó que se debe trabajar la papaya porque tendría un alto impacto económico.

“Existe una papaya transgénica que utilizan en Hawaii, que no se está utilizando en Puerto Rico y que podría ser de alto impacto económico para los agricultores”, manifestó.

Dijo que Pioneer Hi-Bred International, que produce semillas transgénicas en sus invernaderos de Salinas, también altera el material genético de plantas y alimentos que consumen animales con diferentes propósitos.

“Para hacer que las plantas sean resistentes a herbicidas, para que tengan alto rendimiento y que provean los nutrientes necesarios para que el ganado, cuando se corte la carne, tenga una textura y un color apetecible para las personas”, señaló.

Aseguró que, mediante esa tecnología biológica, se producen plantas resistentes a insectos, lo que supuestamente elimina el uso de insecticidas.

Pioneer Hi-Bred Internacional Inc. pertenece a la compañía científica DuPont y produce semillas, alimentos y granos. Es la principal desarrolladora de “plantas genéticamente avanzadas” destinadas a la agricultura, según la página de internet www.pioneer.com.


La Jornada, México, 25 de septiembre de 2006

Trasnacionales redactan cartas "de agricultores"

Silvia Ribeiro*

Agrobio México es una "asociación civil" cuyos miembros son las trasnacionales Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont, Bayer y Dow. Son las mismas que controlan los cultivos transgénicos en el mundo. Solamente Monsanto controla 88 por ciento.

La gerente de comunicaciones de esta asociación, Ana Laura González, envió el 7 de septiembre un correo electrónico a Jaime Sánchez Ruelas, presidente de la Unión Agrícola Regional del Norte de Tamaulipas, con argumentos para que su asociación y otros agricultores enviaran al Servicio Nacional de Sanidad, Inocuidad y Calidad Agroalimentaria (Senasica), en favor de las solicitudes de Monsanto, Dow y Pioneer (Dupont), para experimentar con maíz transgénico en México. Agrobio aconseja en su carta a los agricultores que "promuevan comentarios de otras personas: colegas, familiares, etc". Para que no tengan que pensar ni en cómo disimular quién les hizo el texto, González envió cuatro versiones diferentes de cartas para enviar a las autoridades.

El mismo día, el diligente Jaime Sánchez envió todo el paquete a varias decenas de asociaciones de agriculto- res e individuos afines. Si alguien creía que, aun siendo muy pocos, había agricultores en México que realmente querían maíz transgénico, queda claro que no hablan por sí mismos, sino por las trasnacionales.
Los argumentos que Agrobio compiló para esos agricultores con quienes tiene tan estrecha relación parecen un viaje de Prozac de las multinacionales: según ellos no hay problema alguno, sus amigos investigadores del Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados (Cinvestav) ya previeron todas las medidas de bioseguridad mediante el Plan Maestro de Maíz; el maíz transgénico aumentará la producción, disminuirá el uso de químicos y ahora, por arte de magia, los agricultores mexicanos podrán competir con los millones de toneladas de maíz transgénico subsidiado que México importa desde Estados Unidos. Sorprendente que en tan pocas hojas compilen tantas falsedades.

En una de las cartas, Agrobio esgrime que los transgénicos contribuirán a las "Metas de Desarrollo Milenario" (sic) de reducir la pobreza mundial. Se refieren probablemente a los Objetivos de Desarrollo del Milenio de Naciones Unidas. Como los funcionarios de Agrobio reciben sus instrucciones en inglés directamente de las casas matrices de las trasnacionales en Estados Unidos, no se han molestado en leer el texto original y lo tradujeron erróneamente.

De todos modos, a Agrobio lo único que le preocupa de los pobres es si los puede usar como estrategia de marketing. En realidad las semillas transgénicas han aumentado la pobreza en los países del Sur donde se han cultivado por más tiempo, por ejemplo en Argentina, segundo productor mundial de transgénicos.

Pero Agrobio no quiere mostrar los datos de producción y uso de químicos de los transgénicos en los países que más los han usado. Por eso no menciona los datos del Departamento de Agricultura de Estados Unidos (USDA), país pionero en estos cultivos, que tiene más de 60 por ciento de la producción mundial de transgénicos. En su lugar coloca datos parciales, con los que manipula resultados usando fuentes de organismos creados por las propias empresas.

Si se basaran en datos oficiales de USDA, como ha hecho, entre otros, el investigador Charles Benbrook, tendrían que informar que hasta 2003 la introducción de transgénicos significó un aumento de uso de agroquímicos de 23 millones de kilogramos. Curva que sigue en ascenso. Que en caso del maíz, en una evaluación de cinco años, también compilada por Benbrook sobre datos oficiales, el aumento total de producción fue de 0.6 por ciento, pero como la semilla transgénica es mucho más cara, los agricultores perdieron 92 millones de dólares porque gastaron mucho más que si hubieran sembrado maíz convencional. Que las propias empresas recomiendan a los agricultores dejar "refugios para insectos" de maíz no transgénico en un 20 a 40 por ciento de su campo, para retardar la inevitable resistencia que surge en los insectos que dice combatir. Que por todo eso el estudio de la USDA Adopción de los cultivos biotecnológicos (2002) concluyó que "...el tema pendiente más importante es explicar por qué ha habido un ritmo de adopción tan acelerado mientras los impactos económicos parecen ser variados o incluso negativos".

La razón de esto, que Agrobio conoce pero prefiere ocultar, es que la mayoría de los agricultores de Estados Unidos tienen una relación de esclavitud con las empresas semilleras, porque han perdido sus propias semillas y el acceso a las no patentadas de mejoramiento público. No es que los transgénicos sean elegidos por los agricultores, sino que las empresas que monopolizan el mercado no les dan otras opciones, porque para ellas sí es un gran negocio.

Ochenta y cinco por ciento de los que trabajan el campo en México son campesinos y usan sus propias semillas, sustento de sus autonomías, de sus culturas y de poder comer sin pedir permiso a nadie. Por ellos van las empresas, por las buenas o las malas. Si se siembra maíz transgénico en México habrá una inevitable contaminación transgénica, con genes patentados, mucho más extendida de la que ya produjeron las empresas y el gobierno con las importaciones de maíz. Esto sería un crimen de lesa humanidad, con consecuencias gravísimas para toda la sociedad, ahora y en el futuro. Si el gobierno legaliza tamaña agresión en favor de las multinacionales, colocará aún más presión a la caldera a punto de estallar de la sociedad mexicana. Y quien siembra viento...

* Investigadora del Grupo ETC

Etiquetas: ,

lunes, septiembre 25, 2006

Recolección de firmas para que la CBD prohiba la liberación de árboles genéticamente modificados

La última Conferencia de las Partes (COP8) de la Convención sobre Diversidad Biológica (CBD) adoptó una importante Decisión en relación con los árboles genéticamente modificados e invitó a todos “a ofrecer opiniones e información pertinente a la Secretaría para su inclusión en la evaluación”. Por esta razón varias organizaciones han elaborado una carta conjunta (ver abajo) para ser enviada al Secretariado que contiene información y análisis sobre el tema y hace un llamado a la CBD para que declare “en forma inmediata la prohibición de liberación de árboles genéticamente modificados”.

Estimado Sr. Djoghaf:

Los abajo firmantes desean expresar su total apoyo a la decisión VIII/19 de la octava Conferencia de las Partes del Convenio de Diversidad Biológica (Diversidad Biológica Forestal: aplicación del programa de trabajo), que “Recomienda a las Partes adoptar enfoques de precaución al tratar la cuestión de los árboles genéticamente modificados”.

También apoyamos las razones que fundamentan la toma de tal Decisión, que señala: “Reconociendo las inexactitudes [incertidumbres] relacionadas con los impactos ambientales y socioeconómicos potenciales, incluyendo los impactos a largo plazo y los transfronterizos, de árboles modificados genéticamente sobre la diversidad biológica de los bosques a nivel global, así como los medios de subsistencia de las comunidades indígenas y locales, y dada la ausencia de datos confiables y de la capacidad en algunos países para llevar a cabo evaluaciones de riesgo y evaluar esos posibles impactos...”

Dado que la Decisión también “Invita a las Partes, otros Gobiernos y organizaciones pertinentes, incluidas las comunidades indígenas y locales, así como a los interesados directos pertinentes, a ofrecer opiniones e información pertinente a la Secretaría para su inclusión en la evaluación”, nos interesa contribuir a esta evaluación.

Una mirada a las principales líneas de investigación sobre árboles genéticamente modificados (GM) que se están llevando a cabo en la actualidad, demuestra una gama de objetivos muy estrechos:

- resistencia a herbicidas
- resistencia a insectos
- esterilidad de los árboles
- menos lignina y mayor contenido celulósico
- resistencia al frío, salinidad o sequía
- mayor rapidez de crecimiento

Ninguna de estas características puede ser vista como beneficiosa para la diversidad biológica de los bosques, que tiene necesidad del acompañamiento de especies de flora (que reciben el impacto de los herbicidas), de insectos y las correspondientes cadenas alimenticias (que reciben el impacto de los árboles resistentes a insectos), flores y semillas (inexistentes por la esterilidad de los árboles), madera resistente a los fuertes vientos (el menor contenido de lignina vuelve al árbol más débil), árboles y plantas adaptadas a los ambientes locales (que reciben el impacto de árboles exóticos resistentes al frío, la salinidad y la sequía), suelos intactos y agua suficiente (agotada por los árboles de rápido crecimiento).

Además, las plantaciones de árboles genéticamente modificados probablemente se instalarán en el lugar que actualmente ocupan bosques biológicamente diversos, siguiendo la tendencia de plantaciones de monocultivos que han reemplazado bosques nativos en todo el mundo.

Esto indica que los árboles GM no son beneficiosos para la biodiversidad de los bosques a nivel global. También queda claro que esas modificaciones genéticas se están llevando adelante por razones industriales y no ambientales y que si esos árboles GM son liberados, tendrán como resultado plantaciones industriales con baja biodiversidad y desaparición de otros organismos vivos. Así, se reduce efectivamente la diversidad biológica forestal.

Esto nos lleva a la cuestión principal: ¿Pueden los árboles GM tener un impacto negativo en la diversidad biológica de los bosques?

Las principales amenazas son:

- Sustitución de bosques diversos por monocultivos de árboles GM. Esto ya está sucediendo con monocultivos “convencionales” de árboles (palma aceitera, eucaliptos, pinos, acacias y melinas) y no existe razón alguna para creer que esto será diferente si se utilizan árboles GM. Por el contrario, corporaciones como ArborGen han señalado que de la celulosa obtenida a partir de las plantaciones de árboles GM pueden obtenerse ganancias considerablemente más elevadas que de los monocultivos convencionales, indicando con esto que las corporaciones buscan implementar plantaciones de árboles GM a gran escala.

- Contaminación de árboles genéticamente no modificados de la misma especie o género. Esta contaminación es particularmente peligrosa en el caso del árbol más extensamente utilizado en plantaciones –el eucalipto– cuyas muchas especies tienen la capacidad de hibridarse y pueden, por lo tanto, ser fácilmente polinizados por eucaliptos GM. También existe el mismo peligro en el caso de otras especies ampliamente plantadas, tales como los pinos, álamos y acacias. En China, el único país en que los árboles GM han sido plantados a escala comercial, la contaminación de los álamos nativos ya ha sido documentada.

- Contaminación de árboles de especies relacionadas. El polen de los árboles puede viajar largas distancias y puede contaminar árboles no- GM, tanto de la misma especie, como otras especies relacionadas, en regiones y países enteros. Esto significaría que los árboles nativos podrían adquirir características de árboles GM. Por ejemplo, podrían volverse resistentes a insectos, es decir, producir toxinas teniendo como resultado la disminución de ciertas poblaciones de insectos y de especies de plantas y animales dependientes. La “solución” de desarrollar árboles sin flores, crea una falsa confianza en la supuesta seguridad de la tecnología y corre el riesgo de traspasar cualquiera de los genes modificados a árboles silvestres – si la esterilidad fallara en tan solo un árbol en un año.

- Los árboles con menos lignina (y mayor contenido de celulosa) estarían más expuestos a las pestes, probablemente aumentaría su caída ante fuertes vientos, y la descomposición de su madera sería más rápida, alterando la composición del suelo y liberando CO2 con mayor rapidez, contribuyendo de esta manera al cambio climático. La madera descompuesta de los bosques provee un habitat esencial para una gran diversidad de flora y fauna. Alterar los niveles de descomposición tendría un efecto grave en poblaciones de especies, cuya consecuencia aún no ha sido estudiada. Estos árboles también evidenciarán características alteradas durante una tormenta,
inundaciones o sequía.

- La contaminación de los ecosistemas de bosques y otros habitat con árboles GM, a través de las semillas. Los árboles producen abundantes frutos y semillas, a menudo capaces de viajar largas distancias por aire, agua, animales o por las actividades humanas. Los árboles manipulados genéticamente para adquirir cualidades de mayor crecimiento, tolerancia a la salinidad, adaptación a días más cortos o tolerancia al frío, podrían erradicar a especies pioneras comunes, o poblar habitats únicos o marginales donde anteriormente los árboles no podían desarrolarse.

Los impactos sobre los medios de sustento de las comunidades indígenas y locales. La liberación al ambiente y el uso comercial de árboles GM en plantaciones industriales, no traerán ningún beneficio a las comunidades locales, e impactarán negativamente en el uso tradicional de los recursos del bosque, incluyendo frutas, semillas, insectos, animales, miel y fibras. A largo plazo, la contaminación de las especies nativas de árboles podrían hacer desaparecer la mayor parte de los recursos de los que dependen.

- Muchos estudios se han realizado sobre los posibles impactos de los cultivos GM en la salud humana y los riesgos involucrados son múltiples. Pocos estudios de evaluación se han hecho específicamente sobre árboles, y si bien probablemente compartan riesgos similares a cultivos agrícolas, también se sabe que los árboles genéticamente modificados plantean aspectos específicos de preocupación. La longevidad de los árboles hace imposible llevar adelante en el corto plazo los estudios de evaluación multi-generacional. Sin embargo, se sabe que la ocurrencia de fallas en la pretendida expresión de los genes puede solo volverse evidente luego de haber sido estudiada a lo largo de varias generaciones. Expresiones genéticas no esperadas han de hecho ocurrido, por ejemplo, en el caso de olmos.

- El incremento de la contaminación del suelo, del agua y el aire por los herbicidas tóxicos usados conjuntamente con árboles resistentes a herbicidas, o inhalar polen de árboles resistentes a insectos, puede tener serios impactos en la salud de los pueblos indígenas y comunidades locales.

- Existen posibles impactos significativos en las mujeres y pueblos indígenas, tradicionales cuidadoras de la biodiversidad. En muchas comunidades, las mujeres son las que piensan en términos generacionales. Son las mujeres de comunidades rurales e indígenas las que sufrirán la carga mayor del impacto de las plantaciones de árboles GM, tal como actualmente soportan la parte más dura de los impactos de los monocultivos convencionales de plantaciones de árboles. Mujeres y niños también soportarán el peso de cualquier consecuencia sobre la salud humana de los árboles GM, por ejemplo, como resultado de la inhalación de grandes cantidades de la toxina Bt del polen de los árboles resistentes a insectos.

- En conclusión, los árboles GM no tienen ningún papel a jugar en la conservación de la diversidad biológica de los bosques, y por el contrario, probablemente reduzcan la biodiversidad, con las correspondientes consecuencias sociales. Los altos riesgos señalados por la ciencia disponible, aunque incompleta, muestran que la tecnología puede resultar en la extinción de especies de flora y fauna del bosque, con severos impactos sobre la biodiversidad.

Urgimos, por lo tanto, al Convenio sobre Diversidad Biológica a avanzar desde la actual recomendación a las Partes de tomar “enfoques de precaución”, hacia una Decisión obligatoria, declarando en forma inmediata la prohibición de liberación de árboles genéticamente modificados.


Ana Lucía Bravo
Acción Ecológica

Carlos A. Vicente
Acción por la Biodiversidad

Miguel Lovera
Coalición Mundial por los Bosques

Anne Petermann
Global Justice Ecology Project

Henk Hobbelink

Brian Tokar
Institute for Social Ecology

Ricardo Carrere
Movimiento Mundial por los Bosques

Javier Baltodano/ Isaac Rojas
Programa de Bosques / Amigos de la Tierra Internacional

Elizabeth Bravo
Red por una América Latina Libre de Transgénicos

Orin Langelle
STOP GE Trees Campaign

Si desea firmar esta carta esta carta, envíe por favor un mensaje a STOP GE Trees: info@stopgetrees.org antes del 15 de noviembre de 2006!


jueves, septiembre 21, 2006

Do the Gene Engineers Know Best?

by Deborah Rich

We Americans are eating a lot of genetically engineered food, and for no good reason.

Since the mid-1990s, when corn and soybean varieties began being injected with genes from bacteria and other unrelated species, we’ve been paying participants in a food experiment with potentially unprecedented effects on human health, the environment and food security.

By 2005, the Agriculture Department says, the vast majority of U.S. soybean acres and 52 percent of corn acres were planted with genetically engineered seed.

The bounty of these acres is in our candy, crackers and chicken pot pies, in our pizza and pasta sauce, in our Coca Cola and Campbell’s soups. Corn and soybeans are ubiquitous: tens of thousands of processed foods contain soy, and the typical consumer takes in 200 calories of high-fructose corn syrup per day. Alter the genomes of corn and soybeans, and you’ve altered the diet of most Americans.

Corn and soybeans are staples of animal feeds, so we’re also modifying the diets of our beef cattle and milk cows, our pigs and chickens.

Yet lending our grocery dollars and stomachs to this venture gains us little.

The price of modified seed includes a technology fee that effectively siphons off the bulk of any additional revenue farmers might gain from reduced pest damage or decreased management costs.

Many hoped that genetically engineered crops would help the environment by cutting pesticide use. We should have known that growing crops engineered to tolerate herbicides could lead to more chemical use. A 2004 analysis funded by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that the introduction of engineered corn, soybeans and cotton caused a 122 million pound increase in pesticide use since 1996.

And because resistant crops have encouraged near constant use of one or two classes of herbicides, superweeds that withstand the chemicals have now emerged and will require ever more potent poisons to control.

Another hope was that gene tinkering would help end world hunger. But the dream of concocting drought-tolerant, insect-resistant, nutrient-dense supreme species ignores the reality of global markets already awash in food. Hunger and malnutrition result from poverty, not a lack of food in the world.

It’s unlikely that we’re getting health benefits from eating these crops. Scientists are studying their possible effects. Among the findings: abnormal white and red blood cell counts and inflammation of the kidney in rats fed genetically engineered corn, accelerated growth of stomach and intestinal tissues of rats fed engineered potatoes, and immune responses in mice fed altered peas. The findings are controversial, but they should, at the very least, give us pause.

Meanwhile, pollen from genetically engineered crops is on the move. In a recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, 50 percent of nonengineered corn and soybean varieties tested by one laboratory contained DNA from engineered versions. Chasing down and eliminating this freeflowing DNA from our seed supply, should the need arise, will require Herculean effort.

The only clear reason why we’re eating so much genetically modified food is that Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta, which together control over 25 percent of global seed sales, want us to.

In the United States, Monsanto dominates many a menu. It owns half of the American corn seed market, and its modified traits are present in roughly 90 percent of soybean acres.

Monsanto is tossing salads too. In January 2005, it bought Seminis, supplier of 3,500 varieties of fruit and vegetable seed to 150 countries. Monsanto now controls more than 30 percent of the world’s cucumber, hot pepper and bean seed sales, and more than 20 percent of onion, tomato and sweet pepper seed sales, according to the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration.

Now consider that Monsanto and its cohorts are free to undertake the genetic modification of any plant variety they own. The plant varieties they don’t modify, they can remove from the market. With one-fourth of the total value of the worldwide commercial seed market already coming from engineered seeds, our choices for unmodified crops and foods are rapidly dwindling.

As we relinquish control over our food to the gene engineers, we must ask: Does Monsanto really know best?

Published on Thursday, September 21, 2006 by CommonDreams.org

Deborah Rich grows olive trees near Monterey, Calif., and writes about agriculture for the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications. She wrote this essay for the Land Institute's Prairie Writers Circle, Salina, Kan.
- Please send far and wide -

from World Rainforest Movement http://www.wrm.org.uy/
WRM BULLETIN #110 - September 2006 http://www.wrm.org.uy/bulletin/110/viewpoint.html


- Sign-on letter to Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) urging a ban on genetically modified trees

At its last Conference of the Parties (COP8), the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted a very important Decision (VIII/19),"Recommending "Parties to take a precautionary approach when addressing the issue of genetically modified trees".

That Decision recognized "the uncertainties related to the potential environmental and socio-economic impacts, including long-term and transboundary impacts, of genetically modified trees on global forest biological diversity, as well as on the livelihoods of indigenous and local communities, and given the absence of reliable data and of capacity in some countries to undertake risk assessments and to evaluate those potential impacts".

This is a very important step in the right direction, which needs to be supported against the pressure that will be put on the CBD by the powerful pro-GM tree lobby.

Given that the COP8 Decision has invited everyone "to provide relevant views and information to the Secretariat for inclusion in this assessment", a number of organizations have produced a joint letter to be sent to the Secretariat providing information and analysis on the issue and calling for a "mandatory decision declaring an immediate ban on the release of GM trees."

The letter concludes that "GM trees have no role to play in the conservation of global forest biological diversity and, on the contrary, are likely to reduce forest biodiversity, with attendant social consequences. The high risks indicated by the available though incomplete science show that the technology could result in the extinction of forest plant and animal species with severe negative impacts on biodiversity" and urges the CBD "to move forward from the current recommendation to Parties to take a precautionary approach, to a mandatory decision declaring an immediate ban on the release of GM trees."

The full letter is available IMMEDIATELY BELOW or can be found: http://www.wrm.org.uy/subjects/GMTrees/LetterCBD.html

If you wish to sign on to this letter, please send a message to STOP GE Trees mailto:info@stopgetrees.org
before November 15th!

Sign-on letter to CBD urging a ban on genetically modified trees

At its last Conference of the Parties (COP8), the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted a very important Decision in relation to the issue of genetically modified trees and invited everyone "to provide relevant views and information to the Secretariat for inclusion in this assessment". Given that a number of organizations have produced a joint letter (below) to be sent to the Secretariat providing information and analysis on the issue and calling for a "mandatory decision declaring an immediate ban on the release of GM trees."

If you wish to sign on to this letter, please send a message to
STOP GE Trees: mailto:info@stopgetrees.org before November 15th!

CBD Secretariat
Dear Mr Djoghlaf,

The undersigned wish to express our full support for the COP 8's Decision VIII/19 (Forest biological diversity: implementation of the programme of work), which "Recommends Parties to take a precautionary approach when addressing the issue of genetically modified trees".

We also support the reasons for the adoption of the above Decision which states that: "Recognizing the uncertainties related to the potential environmental and socio-economic impacts, including long-term and transboundary impacts, of genetically modified trees on global forest biological diversity, as well as on the livelihoods of indigenous and local communities, and given the absence of reliable data and of capacity in some countries to undertake risk assessments and to evaluate those potential impacts".

Given that the Decision also "Invites Parties, other Governments and relevant organizations, including indigenous and local communities, as well as relevant stakeholders, to provide relevant views and information to the Secretariat for inclusion in this assessment," we would like to contribute to this assessment.

A look at the main genetically modified (GM) tree research currently being carried out shows that it is focused on a very narrow range of aims:

- herbicide resistance
- insect resistance
- tree sterility
- lower lignin and higher cellulose content
- resistance to cold, salt or drought
- faster growth

None of the above can be seen as being beneficial to global forest biological diversity, which needs accompanying flora species (impacted by herbicides), insects and related food chains (impacted by insect resistant trees), flowers and seeds (inexistent with tree sterility), wood resistant to strong winds (lower lignin content makes trees weaker), trees and plants adapted to local environments (impacted by alien trees resistant to cold, salt or drought), intact soils and sufficient water (depleted by fast-growing trees) In addition, genetically engineered tree plantations are likely to be developed where biologically diverse forests now stand, following the trend of monoculture plantations that have replaced native forests around the world.

This indicates that GM trees are not beneficial for global forest biological diversity. It is also clear that those genetic modifications are being carried out for industrial and not environmental reasons and, if released, would result in industrial plantations with low biodiversity, largely devoid of other living organisms, thus effectively depleting forest biological diversity.

This leads to the main question: Can genetically modified trees have a negative impact on global forest biological diversity?

The main threats are:

- Substitution of diverse forests by genetically modified tree monocultures. This is already happening with "conventional" tree monocultures (oil palm, eucalyptus, pines, acacias, and gmelinas) and there is no reason to believe that it would be different with GM trees. On the contrary, corporations like ArborGen have postulated that pulp from plantations of GM trees could bring in considerably higher profits than pulp from conventional monocultures, indicating that corporations intend to rapidly implement large scale industrial GM tree plantations.

- Contamination of non-GM trees of the same species or genus. This contamination is particularly dangerous in the case of the most widespread plantation tree-eucalyptus -whose many species have the capacity to hybridise and could therefore be easily pollinated by GM eucalyptus. It is also dangerous in other plantation species such as pines, poplars and acacias. In China, the only country where GM trees are planted on a commercial scale, contamination of native poplar trees has already been documented.

- Contamination of related tree species. Tree pollen can travel very long distances and could contaminate non-GM trees both of the same species as well as other related species in entire regions and countries. This would mean that native trees might acquire the genetically modified traits of GM trees. For instance, they might become resistant to insects, i.e. produce toxins, thus resulting in the depletion of certain insect populations and dependent plant and animal species. The "solution" of developing flowerless trees creates false confidence in the supposed safety of the technology and runs the risk of passing on any of the modified genes to trees in the wild - if sterility were to fail in just one single tree in one year.

- Trees with less lignin (and higher cellulose content) would be more prone to pest attacks, and potentially increased windfalls, and would rot more quickly, altering soil structure and releasing CO2 more quickly, thus contributing to climate change. Decomposing forest dead wood provides an essential habitat for a high diversity of flora and fauna. Disturbing the rate of wood decomposition would have a dramatic effect on species populations, the consequences of which have not been studied. These trees would also show altered characteristics during storm, flooding and possibly drought.

- Contamination of forest ecosystems and other habitats with GM trees via seed. Trees produce abundant fruit and seed, often capable of travelling long distances either carried by air, water, animals and human activities. Trees genetically engineered for faster growth, salt tolerance, short daylight adaptation or cold tolerance could out-compete common pioneer species or populate rare or marginal habitats previously uninhabitable to trees.

- Impacts on the livelihoods of indigenous and local communities. The environmental release and commercial use of GM trees in industrial GM tree plantations would provide no goods to local communities, and would impact on their traditional use of forest resources, including fruit, seed, insects, animals, honey, and fibres. In the long run, contamination of native tree species could wipe out most of the resources they depend on.

- Many studies have been done on the potential human health impacts of GM crops and the risks involved are manifold. Few risk assessment studies apply specifically to trees and though they are likely to share similar risks to plant crops, trees are also know to have other specific areas of concern when genetically modified. The longevity of trees makes the necessary multi-generational risks assessment studies impossible to carry out in the short-term. Yet it is known that aberrations of intended gene _expression may only become apparent when studied over several generations. Unexpected gene _expression is known to have occurred in elm trees, for example.

- Increased contamination of soils, water and air from toxic herbicides used in conjunction with herbicide-resistant trees, or inhalation of pollen from insect-resistant trees could have serious impacts on the health of indigenous and local communities.

- There are significant likely impacts on women and indigenous peoples, the traditional caretakers of biodiversity. In many communities, women are the ones who think in terms of generations. It is women in rural and indigenous communities who will bear the greatest burden of the impacts of GM tree plantations, just as they currently bear the brunt of the impacts from conventional monoculture tree plantations. Women and children will likely bear the brunt of any human health consequences of GE trees, for example resulting from inhalation of large quantities of Bt toxin from the pollen of insect-resistant Bt trees.

In conclusion, GM trees have no role to play in the conservation of global forest biological diversity and, on the contrary, are likely to reduce forest biodiversity, with attendant social consequences. The high risks indicated by the available though incomplete science show that the technology could result in the extinction of forest plant and animal species with severe negative impacts on biodiversity.

We therefore urge the Convention on Biological Diversity to move forward from the current recommendation to Parties to take a precautionary approach, to a mandatory decision declaring an immediate ban on the release of GM trees.

Yours sincerely,

Ana Lucía Bravo
Acción Ecológica

Carlos A. Vicente
Acción por la Biodiversidad

Javier Baltodano/ Isaac Rojas
Forest Program/ Friends of the Earth International

Miguel Lovera
Global Forest Coalition

Anne Petermann
Global Justice Ecology Project

Henk Hobbelink

Brian Tokar
Institute for Social Ecology

Elizabeth Bravo
Network for a GE Free Latin America

Orin Langelle
STOP GE Trees Campaign

Ricardo Carrere
World Rainforest Movement

If you wish to sign on to this letter, please send a message to STOP GE Trees: mailto:info@stopgetrees.org before November 15th!

Information from:

STOP Genetically Engineered Trees Campaign

A project of Global Justice Ecology Project
P.O. Box 412
Hinesburg, VT 05461 U.S.
+1.802.482.2689 ph/fax


lunes, septiembre 18, 2006

Vida 2.0

More techno hype from The Economist:

Synthetic biology

Life 2.0

From The Economist print edition

The new science of synthetic biology is poised between hype and hope. But its time will soon come


IN 1965 few people outside Silicon Valley had heard of Gordon Moore. For that matter, no one at all had heard of Silicon Valley. The name did not exist and the orchards of Santa Clara county still brought forth apples, not Macintoshes. But Mr Moore could already discern the outlines. For 1965 was the year when he published the paper that gave birth to his famous “law” that the power of computers, as measured by the number of transistors that could be fitted on a silicon chip, would double every 18 months or so.

Four decades later, equally few people have heard of Rob Carlson. Dr Carlson is a researcher at the University of Washington, and some graphs of the growing efficiency of DNA synthesis that he drew a few years ago look suspiciously like the biological equivalent of Moore's law. By the end of the decade their practical upshot will, if they continue to hold true, be the power to synthesise a string of DNA the size of a human genome in a day.

At the moment, what passes for genetic engineering is mere pottering. It means moving genes one at a time from species to species so that bacteria can produce human proteins that are useful as drugs, and crops can produce bacterial proteins that are useful as insecticides. True engineering would involve more radical redesigns. But the Carlson curve (Dr Carlson disavows the name, but that may not stop it from sticking) is making that possible.

In the short run such engineering means assembling genes from different organisms to create new metabolic pathways or even new organisms. In the long run it might involve re-writing the genetic code altogether, to create things that are beyond the range of existing biology. These are enterprises far more worthy of the name of genetic engineering than today's tinkering. But since that name is taken, the field's pioneers have had to come up with a new one. They have dubbed their fledgling discipline “synthetic biology”.