Rio de Janeiro, Brazil–While the highly controversial
“Sustainable Energy for All” initiative  is underway today at Energy
Day at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, the
international STOP GE Trees Campaign  is demanding a global ban on
the release of destructive and dangerous genetically engineered trees
(also called GE trees, GMO trees or GM trees) into the environment.
Brazil is one of the most active countries in promoting the development of GE trees for the production of “renewable” bioenergy.
“Much of the research on GE trees in Brazil is focused on eucalyptus
trees, which are being engineered for faster growth, and for modified
wood qualities–such as increased cellulose and decreased lignin
content. These engineered traits will facilitate the production of
wood-based bioenergy”, stated Isis Alvarez of Global Forest Coalition.
“The dramatic and dangerous impacts of non-GMO industrial eucalyptus
plantations are well documented and include invasiveness,
desertification of soils, depletion of water, increased threat of
wildfire and loss of biodiversity”, stated Anne Petermann, Executive
Director of Global Justice Ecology Project and Coordinator of the STOP
GE Trees Campaign. “Eucalyptus trees are not native to the Americas
and they inhibit the growth of native vegetation. In Brazil, these
plantations are called Green Deserts because nothing can grow in them.
Now they want to engineer them, which will make them even more
destructive”,  she added.
There are currently seven million hectares of eucalyptus in Brazil.
These plantations have displaced native forests, grasslands or
agriculture; or were grown on the lands of Indigenous Peoples, forest
dependent communities. There are plans to double the land covered by
eucalyptus plantations in the next decade and the Brazilian government
has even proposed to “reforest” the Amazon rainforest with eucalyptus
In the United States, the GE tree company ArborGen is engineering
eucalyptus trees to tolerate freezing temperatures. Global Justice
Ecology Project joined non-GMO organizations and forest protection
groups to sue the US Department of Agriculture to stop the development
of these non-native GMO trees in 2010. 
“Here in Brazil there has been fierce opposition to destructive
eucalyptus monocultures, or Green Deserts”, said Winnie Overbeek,
Executive Secretary of the Uruguay-based World Rainforest Movement.
“Creating GMO cold-tolerant trees is extremely dangerous. This will
allow the expansion of monoculture plantations to other regions of the
world, increasing the destruction of Green Deserts into new untouched
environments and communities”.
“While monoculture giants such as the Brazilian Suzano Papel e Celulose
begin an advanced trial of genetically engineered trees with the goal
of helping reach the global ‘demand’ on bioenergy, EU Renewable Energy
policies are accelerating the demand for wood for bioenergy, for
example through strategies like the goal of the UK to import 80 million
tonnes of wood pellets, mainly from the US, Canada and Brazil for
biomass energy production”,  stated Joanna Cabello of Carbon Trade
Watch, a member of the No REDD Platform.
For all of these reasons, the genetic engineering of eucalyptus trees
for faster growth to meet the rapidly increasing demand for
bioenergy–which will be further exacerbated by the Green
Economy–threatens to expand eucalyptus monocultures, and accelerate the
destruction of the last of the world’s forests.
From Global Justice Ecology Project, STOP GE
Trees Campaign, World Rainforest Movement, Global Forest Coalition,
Carbon Trade Watch