Sunday, June 2, 2013



Temecula, CA – A day after two million people worldwide ‘marched against Monsanto’ and the use of genetically manipulated organisms or GMO non-labeled food stuffs in the American marketplace, a small
Photo: Langelle/ for GJEP
band was marching against the use of GMO trees being released in the wild like the GMO salmon.

Public quotes went -

“Until I stumbled upon a video about genetically engineered trees and the pesticides built into them, I'd never heard of them. This is truly frightening that our ecological system and the human race is being experimented on.”

“It's truly frightening what these GE trees could do to our natural trees. Besides the fact that eucalyptus trees are resin bombs that explode when burning and burn like torches. Keep up the good work protesting. They're not going to be able to do ANYTHING constructive about being hated. Start producing HEMP!!! It's a wonderful biofuel and could turn our economy around.”

It's been quite a week down in Asheville, NC:

The bi-annual Tree Biotechnology Conference, convened by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), is the premier industry and research conference on GE trees. This year's conference was held from May 26 - June 1 at the Asheville Marriott Renaissance hotel. Two of the major conference sponsors, FuturaGene and ArborGen, are moving forward with plans to commercially release GE eucalyptus trees in Brazil and the US.

Last month, the USDA public comment period for ArborGen's GE eucalyptus was flooded with 37,580 comments opposing its legalization, with only four comments in favor - a difference of almost 99.99% to .01%. (See Occupy LA archive stories for more on this metaphysical aspect of a people’s movement; also Prop 37’s report about Psalm 37)

Day 1: Two folks were arrested for disrupting an opening day presentation on GE trees for bioenergy.

As the Tree Biotechnology 2013 conference kicked off early Monday, two Asheville residents were arrested after disrupting a major presentation by Belgian tree engineer Wout Boerjan entitled, "Engineering trees for the bio-refinery."

The protestors said that if legalized, GE trees would lead to the destruction of native forests and biodiversity
in the US South, and be economically devastating to rural communities. The talk was disrupted for 20 minutes.

"We know that GE trees are a disaster for forests and biodiversity," said Laura Sorensen, one of the demonstrators arrested on Monday. "With predictions of worsening extreme weather in our region, the last thing we need are highly flammable and invasive plantations of water-hungry eucalyptus trees."

"As a grandmother, I see no future in this for my grandchildren," she added.

Farmer and Professor Steve Norris said, "We took dignified action today to directly confront the growing corporate control over our seeds, forests, and communities. We are sending a crystal clear message to the GE tree industry and its investors - expect resistance."

Photo: Bennington for GJEP
Anti-GE tree demonstrators from across the region converged on Asheville for a week of action to protest the conference proceedings. They are calling attention to South Carolina-based ArborGen's pending request with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to sell millions of GE eucalyptus trees across the US South. Timber and utility corporations have plans to establish millions of acres of plantations of GE pine, poplar along with eucalyptus trees across the southern US to supply dirty, unsustainable pulp mills, biomass plants and liquid biofuels facilities.

Day 2: Hundreds march on the conference as industry holds workshop titled "What to do about the fact that everyone hates us."
The protest, the largest yet against GE trees, occurred one day after two Asheville residents were arrested
Photo: Bennington for GJEP
while disrupting a presentation titled “Engineering Trees for the Biorefinery.”
Following the arrests and the threat of protest today, the conference went on high alert. Police maintained a presence inside and outside the hotel conference center all day, participant badges were scrutinized, conference doors were locked during sessions, and hotel access restricted.

As protests raged outside, FuturaGene hosted a workshop on the future of forest biotechnology. Debate regarding what to do about public opposition to GE trees dominated the workshop.

Presenters lamented the fact that they were being targeted by protesters and that they could not get the public “on board” with their research and business plans. One presenter explained the need to get the public passionate about GE trees in order to facilitate legalizing their commercial release. He gave as an example the public passion that changed laws following the Newtown, CT shooting.

Conference attendee Anne Petermann, Coordinator of the international Campaign to STOP GE Trees and Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project, commented, “ArborGen is genetically engineering non-native eucalyptus trees to be freeze tolerant to feed ethanol refineries and biomass burners under the umbrella of climate mitigation. They want to convert biodiverse and carbon-rich forests into vast plantations of invasive, flammable and water-draining eucalyptus trees. This will be a disaster for the climate.”

Protesters rallied outside of the conference center for several hours, chanting slogans such as “GE trees – tear ‘em up, ArborGen – shut ‘em down!”

Day 3: Field trip cancelled due to threat of protests.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched on an international forest biotechnology industry conference today, demanding a ban on the release of genetically engineered trees into the environment. Protesters vow that their protests against GE trees are just beginning, and will continue throughout the week of the conference and beyond.

A local woman with Katuah Earth First!, one of those arrested on Wednesday said, “Trees should not be burned for fuel – this is a false solution to climate change.  Monoculture plantations for bioenergy are already displacing Indigenous Peoples and local communities all over the world, and they will have a major impact on rural livelihoods and biodiversity here in the US South.”
She continued, ”GE trees like ArborGen’s highly flammable, water-intensive and invasive eucalyptus would be especially devastating to our communities in the face of drought and extreme weather due to climate change.”

Day 4: Three zombie "frankentrees" arrested while blockading buses full of conference-goers, dozens of
Photo: Langelle/ for GJEP
others roar and bang things in noise demo. Demonstrators echoed one of the arrested protesters from Monday: “We are sending a crystal clear message to the GE tree industry and its investors – expect resistance.”

Day 5: Go here to sign the petition against GMO trees because if you think this has nothing to do with Monsanto, you’re drinking the neonicotinoid.  

(Main story source - GJEP, writer Will Bennington; all emphasis - Ed, edited for content)

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