Open letter to SBSTTA on the issue of GM trees

The undersigned participants of SBSTTA or of meetings leading up to SBSTTA wish to share their concerns about the issue of genetically modified trees within the process of the Convention of Biological Diversity. As you know, the last Conference of the Parties passed Decision VIII/19, which 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”.

Among other things, it recommended Parties “to take a precautionary approach when addressing the issue of genetically modified trees”.

The above recommendation seems to have been basically ignored by a number of countries, where either official research centers or private companies continue carrying out work on genetic modification of trees and are even planning to carry out field trials, such as the current case of the company ArborGen, which is seeking permission for field trials of flowering eucalyptus trees in the US.

Research in genetic modification of trees is currently being carried out –disregarding the COP’s decision- in at least the following countries Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States.

Given that the COP8 Decision gave SBSTTA the task of assessing “the potential environmental, cultural, and socio-economic impacts of genetically modified trees on the conservation and sustainable use of forest biological diversity, and to report to the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties”; and given that the rush to produce biofuels is being used to promote the rapid commercial development of genetically modified trees, we appeal to SBSTTA to:

- insist on compliance by all countries with the precautionary principle as agreed upon at COP8
- recommend a ban on GM trees on the basis of their potential impacts on forest biological diversity

Global Justice Ecology Project
World Rainforest Movement
Global Forest Coalition
Sobrevivencia/FOE Paraguay
STOP GE Trees Campaign, North America
NOAH-Friends of the Earth Netherlands
Africa-Europe F & J Network
Friends of the Earth Europe
Friends of the Earth Malaysia
CENSAT-Aguaviva FOE Colombia

Indigenous Information Network, Kenya
Nordre Folkcenter for Renewable Energy, Denmark
Friends of the Siberian Forests, Russia
CELCOR/FOE Papua New Guinea
Pro REGENWALD, Germany
Robin Wood, Germany
Friends of the Earth—England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia
Comision Intereclesiastica de Justicia y Paz, Colombia
Consejo Comunitario de la Cuenca del Currarado
Ole Siosiomaga Society Incorporated (OLSSI) Samoa
Fundación para la Promocion del Conocimiento Indigena, Panama
ICTI-Tanibar, Indonesia
PIPEC, Pacific Indigenous Peoples Environment Coalition, New Zealand
International Alliance of the Indigneous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests
Corporate Europe Observatory
Greenpeace International
Ecologica Movement BIOM, Kyrgyzatan
CORE – Centre for Organization Research & Education, Northeast Region India
Ecological Society of the Philippines
Timberwatch Coalition, South Africa
Forest Peoples Programme, UK
MST – Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement
Viola, Russia
Ecoropa, Germany
ETC Group
Asociación Indígena Ambiental
Umwelt-und Projehtwerhstatt, Germany
Global Environment Centre, Malaysia
Washington Biotechnology Action Council, U.S.
BUKO Campaign against Biopiracy, Germany
The Gaia Foundation, UK
HATOFF Foundation, Ghana
Tebteba Foundation, Philippines
Nature Tropicale, Benin (West Africa)
Jeunes Volontairs pour l’Environnement, Togo
Biofuelwatch, UK
Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum
NABU – Nature and Conservation Union, Germany
BUND – Friends of the Earth Germany
Indigenous Network on Economics and Trade, Canada