Groups outraged at Brazil’s decision to allow genetically engineered trees

A logging operation - image courtesy of Campaign to STOP GE Trees
A logging operation - image courtesy of Campaign to STOP GE Trees.

A decision to approve genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in Brazil has been condemned by a number of international action groups.

The Brazilian Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio) formally approved an industry request to release genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees on April 9.

The request was made by FuturaGene, which is owned by Brazilian pulp and paper company Suzano, and is the first approval for the commercial release of GE trees in Brazil or Latin America.

Groups such as The Campaign to STOP GE Trees are outraged at the approval, pointing out that the decision is illegal.

The groups’ major concerns are about the impact of GE eucalyptus on thousands of families that produce honey in the regions where the eucalyptus trees are grown.

The producers risk their product quality and subsequently their international markets if their honey is contaminated by GE eucalyptus pollen.

Co-director of EcoNexus and Geneticist, Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher, said the large scale dispersion of reproductive material from the GE trees meant they are likely to cross national borders, which violates the 2008 decision on GE trees made by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to which Brazil is a signatory.

Dr Steinbrecher said that research had shown that risk assessment for GE trees was not possible.

“A review of the scientific literature shows that currently no meaningful and sufficient risk assessment of GE trees is possible,” she said.

“Both scientific literature and in-field experience show that contamination by and dispersal of GE trees will take place.”

The condemnation of CTN Bio’s decision to approve the GE trees follows recent protests both in Brazil and across the globe rallying against the use of the genetically engineered vegetation.

In early March, a group of 1,000 women from Brazilian social movement groups occupied FutraGene facilities in Sau Paulo.

At the same time around 300 activists organised by social movement group La Via Campesina shut down the meeting of CTNBio in Brasilia in which the decision on Futura Gene’s GE eucalyptus was to be made.

Global weeks of action were also held at Brazilian embassies and consulates throughout five continents.