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2005-06-07 |

Groups Call for UN CBD Moratorium on GE Trees

Today at a press conference on genetically engineered trees held during the Second meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP 2), participants called for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to enact a moratorium on the release of genetically engineered trees into the environment, including the removal of any outdoor test plots currently in existence.

2005-05-28 |

Genetic modification seen as future of Thai rubber industry

Genetically modified rubber trees could be the future of the Thai rubber industry, producing high quantities of latex, according to one of Thailand’s principle agricultural firms. As one of the world’s main rubber-producing nations, Thailand is keen to boost rubber production and ensure equitable prices for its farmers. And although GM products have been opposed for human consumption, the Charoen Pokphand group, one of the country’s largest business empires, is confident that the government will give the go-ahead for the cultivation of GM rubber in the future.

2005-05-19 |

Thailand in midst of bio-tech crop battle

Here in Thailand's bread basket, behind a barbed wire fence with a padlocked gate in a government-run research centre, lies the most controversial plot of cropland in the kingdom. The half-hectare (1.5-acre) area in northeastern Thailand is fallow. The centre's authorities argue they were nurturing hope for thousands of papaya farmers, but activists saw a dangerous and failed experiment, and last year took action that led to the plot's plants being yanked out by their roots.

2005-05-03 |

Work of independent panel on GE papaya contamination in Thailand delayed

Human rights and agricultural advocates yesterday called on the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry to withdraw the lawsuit against Greenpeace campaigners who allegedly trespassed on its Khon Kaen research station to prove that genetically-modified papaya grown there had spread elsewhere. About 20 representatives of about 15 non-governmental organisations including Amnesty International Thailand, the Protection for Human Rights Defenders and Greenpeace submitted their request in a letter to ministry officials. They argued that the campaigners had the right to information about the state’s actions and that they acted to protect the public interest. As such, they should not be subject to threats of legal action.

2005-04-25 |

New GE papaya gene may revive industry Malaysia

The papaya industry can be fully revived with the introduction of a new resistant gene to fight the papaya ringspot virus (PRSV), a disease which ravaged papaya-growing areas in Johor in 1991. »The virus completely wiped out the industry in Johor but the new gene has proven to be able to combat the disease,« said Dr Vilasini Pillai (picture), the head researcher for the PRSV-resistant eksotika papay

2005-04-17 |

Superfast GM trees may help tropical reforestation and reverse the ecological damage!

»Each year the natural forest area cleared worldwide equals the size of Portugal - five times the size of Israel,« says Dr. Stanley Hirsch, CEO of CBD Technologies, a bio-tech startup in Rehovot. »In Southeast Asia - in countries like Indonesia - the trees are not only cut down, but millions of acres of them are burned to make way for agriculture. The ecological damage is immense.« CBD has found a solution: The company has developed a unique technology that accelerates tree growth and could halt the destruction of the rain forests. The technology is based on a gene called »cellulose binding domain,« which was discovered by Prof. Oded Shoseyov of the agriculture faculty at Hebrew University in Rehovot and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

2005-04-12 |

More GE trees »no threat« to environment in China

Increased planting of genetically engineered (GE) trees will pose no threat to the environment, Chinese scientists have claimed. Speaking yesterday, experts and officials agreed that the use of modified poplar trees is bound to increase as the country sees surging demands for timber. They insisted the transgenic poplars have already undergone strict safety analysis before being commercialized. »There are many natural and artificial »restraints« in China to prevent the GE trees from imperiling bio-safety,« Lu Mengzhu, a chief scientist with the Chinese Academy of Forestry, said yesterday.

2005-04-04 |

Genetically modified trees in Chile: A new forest conflict

El Hacha (The Axe) is a song written by Patricio Manns and performed by Inti Illimani on their release Arriesgaré la piel; its final lines refer to deforestation: »The forest comes before Man, but desert follows him.« Without a doubt, deforestation has seriously affected the balance of forest ecosystems worldwide, making understandable the fear that paralyzes those who are aware of this issue; fear that is expressed in different ways, such as in this song. A second phenomenon negatively affecting the survival of forests is the creation of extensive single- crop forest plantations, and in particular, current concerns about new plantations of genetically modified trees.

2005-04-04 |

GE trees: No solution to climate change

In December 2003, at the ninth Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (COP- 9), government representatives agreed the rules under the Kyoto Protocol’s clean development mechanism for tree plantations as carbon sinks. One of the decisions reached at the meeting allows genetically engineered (GE) trees to be used as carbon sinks under the Kyoto’s clean development mechanism. COP-9 »formulated rules for capturing new subsidies for industrial forestry projects that will accelerate global warming, disempower activists trying to tackle it, promote genetically-modified monoculture tree plantations, reduce biodiversity-and violate local people’s rights to land and forests worldwide,« as Larry Lohmann of The Corner House, a UK-based solidarity and research group, put it.(3)

2005-03-15 |

Now, bioengineered trees are taking root in China

Transgenic poplars could make China a big player in lumber. But some experts worry about effects on nature. Scattered across at least seven provinces in China are more than 1 million common poplar trees with an uncommon bite. They can kill the insects that nibble their leaves. Their unusual defensive system is a genetically engineered bomb: Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, a naturally occurring toxin inserted into the tree’s DNA. Other such transgenic species, such as the larch and walnut, are in the works, Chinese researchers report.

2005-03-15 |

Campaign demands USDA halt field releases of GE trees

Following a national strategy meeting to address the problem of genetic engineering of trees, the Stop GE Trees Campaign reaffirmed its commitment to calling for a ban on the release of GE trees into the environment including the removal of all field releases of genetically engineered forest plants. The Stop GE Trees Campaign is an alliance of grassroots organizations and leading environmental groups in the US and Canada committed to ending the genetic engineering of trees.

2005-03-02 |

Terminator trees

Transgenic or genetically modified (GM) trees have been tested extensively in large open plots with little concern over the spread of transgenes. Studies on the dispersal of pollen and seeds from forest trees have shown that gene-flow can be measured in kilometres. It is clear that the transgenes from GM trees cannot be contained once released into the environment. For that reason, a great deal of effort has been devoted to developing genetic modifications - commonly referred to as terminator techniques - that prevent flowering or pollen production.

2005-02-09 |

Better trees from GM technology?

At an abandoned hat factory in Danbury, Conn, scientists are testing genetically engineered trees to see if they can be used to remove toxic mercury from the ground. In a laboratory in Raleigh, N.C., another group is working to modify trees to make paper production less polluting and more energy efficient. At Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., still more scientists are working on ways to engineer trees so they can store more carbon in their roots as a way of fighting global warming.

2005-01-12 |

GM trees are on their way

The black cottonwood was given the honour of being first tree because it and its relatives are fast-growing and therefore important in forestry. For some people, though, they do not grow fast enough. As America’s Department of Energy, which sponsored and led the cottonwood genome project, puts it, the objective of the research was to provide insights that will lead to »faster growing trees, trees that produce more biomass for conversion to fuels, while also sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.« It might also lead to trees with »phytoremediation traits that can be used to clean up hazardous waste sites.«

2004-12-16 |

Environmental and social justice groups condemn pro-GMO tree decision of UNFCCC

World Rainforest Movement (Uruguay), Friends of the Earth International, Global Justice Ecology Project (USA), [Lorena Ojeda,] a Mapuche scientist from Chile and the Union of Ecoforestry (Finland) gave a presentation yesterday at the Salon del Jardin Botanico in Buenos Aires, Argentina where they condemned the 12/03 decision of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to allow use of genetically engineered (GMO) trees in carbon offset forestry projects developed to supposedly mitigate global warming emissions.

2004-12-15 |

GM trees a false option

In the beginning of this year three environmental organisations launched the Internet action for protesting the GM trees supportive decision made in UN Kyoto meeting in Milano, last December. Today there is about 300 ngos and almost 3000 individuals supporting the demand. The basic idea to reward with emission rights those western countries which would be putting up tree plantations in third world is simply false, even without GM trees, says campaigner Hannu Hyvönen by the Union of Ecoforestry in Finland.

2004-12-02 |

The impact of test-tube trees on the woods

After one of his famous walks, the bearded naturalist John Muir wrote in 1896, »Few are altogether deaf to the preaching of pine trees.« But if today’s trees could tell their stories, some American branches would be whispering new tales of origin: epics of genetic engineering in 150 groves from Puget Sound to the palmetto flats of South Carolina. Scientists are increasingly tweaking the genetics of trees in the laboratory to enable them to do such things as live at higher altitudes, produce more fruit, convert more easily into pulp for paper products, and grow faster for timber harvesting.

2004-11-19 |

GE tree genes on horizon

Science is poised to insert foreign genes into conifers and other trees harvested for cash. Opposition already is stirring. The prospect raises ecological and cultural issues unlike any encountered before. But the promise is big, too, said Claire Williams, a geneticist and visiting professor at Duke University. Designer trees may grow faster and yield products cheaper. That could preserve existing forests while the world’s appetite for wood and paper keeps growing.
Supporters and skeptics, she said, need to talk. »We have a narrow window for constructive dialogue. In five or 10 years it will be too late,« Williams said.

2004-11-18 |

How UH helped save Hawai’i’s papayas

For generations, the papaya ringspot virus, or PRSV, threatened the livelihood of Hawai’i’s papaya farmers. It was discovered on O’ahu in the 1940s and devastated papaya production. By the mid-1980s, more than 90 percent of the state’s papayas were grown in the Big Island’s Puna district. The removal of infected trees in neighboring areas kept Puna virus-free for decades, but time was not on the growers« side. Knowing that Puna’s luck wouldn’t last forever, researchers from UH- Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, Cornell University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and private industry began work to develop a papaya genetically engineered to resist the virus.

2004-11-18 |

Row over GM papaya to surface at IUCN Third World Conservation Congress

Thailand’s most popular fruit, the papaya, is the subject of a heated debate here on genetically modified (GM) crops - an issue that will be taken up at a global environmental conference this week. This has pit environmentalists against biotechnology advocates, with Greenpeace hauled off to court and activists threatening to call protests if the government goes down the GM path.

2004-11-18 |

Rainbow papaya saved industry

Rainbow papaya is the reason we’re still in business. Without it, we wouldn’t have trees to grow or fruit to sell. Instead of 350 to 400 papaya farmers in the state, there might be 50. When ringspot virus reached Puna in 1992, 95 percent of the state’s fresh papayas grew there. Whole fields were infected, and growers had to choose between cutting all their trees or letting them stand and hoping for some harvestable fruit. With sick trees left standing, the virus spread quickly.

2004-11-18 |

Beware inroads of GMO papaya

Dean Hashimoto states that the Rainbow papaya underwent years of rigorous testing. What was the team from UH and Cornell testing for? Did they perform long-term feeding studies? Did they search the new genome for new proteins that could have been created, or suppressed amino acid expressions, or silenced genes? Did they study how the papaya could affect an ecosystem, soil, insects, birds, bees or animals? Did they check to see if the various viruses could recombine with other plant viruses? Is the public able to see this data of no harm?

2004-11-18 |

Row over GM papaya to surface at IUCN Third World Conservation Congress

A group of Big Island farmers opposed to genetically engineered plants dumped more than 20 papaya fruit into a trash bin on the University of Hawai’i-Hilo campus yesterday in a symbolic protest of what they say is »contamination« of their trees by plants created by UH scientists. The group, which leaders say includes as many as 100 small farmers, including conventional, backyard and organic farmers on three islands, is calling on UH to create a plan to prevent cross-pollination of their papaya trees as well as offering liability protection for growers if their markets are lost.

2004-11-18 |

Long-term testing is critical in GMO »foods«

It’s outrageous that organic growers have been told to bag each flower on every tree to prevent GMO papaya contamination. UH must supply GMO testing for papaya seeds and trees. Growers deserve to know what they are eating and selling. UH released this invasive species into our environment. UH must take responsibility to clean it up.

2004-11-11 |

Call for global ban on GM trees

China appears to be the first country on Earth which has taken genetically modified trees into commercial use. According to reports there are now more than a million insect resistant GM poplars in plantations in Southern China. There is still a great lack of information as to the varieties in question but activists are worried. »If those GM poplars can cross pollinate with the natural populations the contamination cannot be avoided. In that case China has obviously made LMO (living modified organism) invasion to other countries and by that it will break the national sovereignty of those countries and also international laws like the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, says Mikko Vartiainen, a lawyer and activist in People’s Biosafety Association in Finland.

2004-10-26 |

Thailand’s next steps in the GMO struggle

When Thailand first tinkered with the genetics of its locally grown papayas back in 1995, the scientific debate over the safety of genetically modified organisms [GMOs] had barely begun. [...] Now, almost a decade and millions of dollars worth of lab tests later, Thailand is embroiled in a GMO controversy. The reason: In July, the country’s GM papayas somehow got out of the lab and sprouted in hundreds of nearby farms. The leakage sparked a panic among local fruit farmers after environmental groups charged that GM papayas had »contaminated« their fields. The uproar highlighted Thailand’s ambivalent position on GMO technology, where confusing government policies simultaneously restrict and promote GMOs.

2004-10-15 |

Controversy rains on GMO crops on Hawai’i (USA)

After the papaya ringspot virus threatened to destroy Hawai’i’s papaya industry when it first appeared in 1992, genetically engineered papayas were released in 1998 as an attempt to stop the potentially-devastating virus. The release of genetically-modified products has sparked controversy between organic farmers and those who opted to use genetically-modified seeds to save their crops.
Scientists, some at the University of Hawai’i, genetically engineered the »Rainbow« and »Sunup« papaya varieties to be resistant to the virus.

2004-10-08 |

GMO taints Hawai’s papaya crop

Most would probably just assume the food they buy at the grocery store is clean, not contaminated and safe to consume. But this assumption may no longer be a safe one. A recent laboratory testing has found widespread contamination from the world’s first commercially planted genetically engineered tree. Papaya contamination has been detected on O’ahu, the Big Island and Kaua’i, along with contamination in non-genetically engineered seeds sold commercially by the University of Hawai’i.

2004-10-08 |

Can GE papayas be good neighbors on Hawai’i (USA)?

Then, last spring, some of Mr. Lahti’s fruit tested positive for genetically modified seeds. »’I was really surprised,’« Mr. Lahti said. »’I didn’t really know what was happening.”
He cut down all 170 of his trees and is now replanting, without any guarantee that the same problem - pollen from modified trees on other farms drifting on the wind to pollinate his trees - won’t happen again. From papayas in Hawaii, to corn in Mexico and canola in Canada, the spread of pollen or seeds from genetically engineered plants is evolving from an abstract scientific worry into a significant practical problem.

2004-10-06 |

Greenpeace urges action plan on GE papaya contamination in Thailand

A special task force and national action plan are urgently needed to cope with an ongoing spread of genetically modified papayas, Greenpeace Southeast Asia said yesterday. Relevant agencies should regard the spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as »’toxic contamination’« and cope with the incident by strictly following international guidelines on clean-up of toxic substances, said Greenpeace campaigner Patwajee Srisuwan. ”GMOs are far more dangerous than hazardous materials because they are living organisms, which could duplicate endlessly unless the source of contamination, the Department of Agriculture’s Khon Kaen research station in this case, is eliminated,’« she said.

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