October was GMO Awareness Month, and I was honored to be interviewed by Alison Rose Levy for a compelling conversation on her PRN radio program Connect the Dots. She asked such good questions! Let me know what you think…
Just click on the image to listen.
ArborGen has executed an agreement with International Paper do Brazil that grants ArborGen the exclusive right to produce and sell superior Eucalyptus Varietals in Brazil. ArborGen is producing the Varietals at a nursery at Luis Antonio, Sao Paulo state and has already begun production and sales of these seedlings, as the company said in the press release received by Lesprom Network.
“While integrated producers have had access to elite Eucalyptus genetics for many years, these genetics have not been available to independent growers. With this agreement, ArborGen will, for the first time, make available to those growers seedlings with the yield and other traits that come with these advanced, proprietary products,” said Gabriela Bassa, managing director of ArborGen do Brazil. “The Luis Antonio nursery is the first in a series of planned nursery developments that we will use to enable us to eventually supply the entire Brazilian market over time.”
The Brazilian forestry industry is one of the largest, fastest growing in the world; Brazil is the world’s largest producer and exporter of hardwood pulp. The Eucalyptus market consumes approximately one billion seedlings per year. Private landowners have relied on older, publicly available varieties which do not offer the benefits that come from using advanced genetics. Results from extensive research trials and full scale production suggest that the new Varietals ArborGen is offering will be superior to those currently in use by private landowners.
ArborGen established ArborGen do Brazil in 2004 as a product and business development center. The company has been working with several large integrated Eucalyptus pulp and paper companies for several years to develop genetically modified Eucalyptus products, and has conducted extensive field trials with these potential products.
International Paper is a global leader in packaging and paper with manufacturing operations in North America, Europe, Latin America, Russia, Asia and North Africa. Its businesses include industrial and consumer packaging and uncoated papers, complemented by xpedx, the company’s North American distribution company.
I recently dove into the world of coffee to see what’s going on in the supply chain, since our rainforest was originally cut down for coffee plantations.
Traveling much of the year to tell our story, Starbucks is often my office, and I’ve been appreciative of happy baristas (who have decent benefits) who serve me a uniformly good Americano. But one day I picked up a notification about their environmental partner, Conservation International and my heart sunk below my muddy boots. From my last post you can see that CI is also partnered with Monsanto, and I have witnessed and heard stories of the distress that has caused for poor rural communities. Among other things, they plant genetically engineered forests as part of their “Forest Mosaic” program, using toxic chemicals that flow into the water system and soil, changing the landscape for eons in ways more devastating than the original slash and burn farming. That, and bio-piracy for their allies…
I actually had the opportunity to meet and speak with Starbucks’ Director of Environmental Impact at a conference this week, and invited him to come see what the impact of their partnership is, in Brazil. Perhaps they just didn’t know what their partners were really doing…
So I asked my Facebook Friends “Does it matter to you, if a business you may often buy from, is partnered with an NGO who is actively partnered with Monsanto?”
This was some of the response I received. It looks like it matters.
Who’d have known that the “genetically improved” Eucalyptus plantations near our organic reforestation projects were supported by an international NGO in partnership with Monsanto, paper and aluminum industries? These new trees reforesting the area provide pulp for toilet paper and diapers while the aluminum mines nearby wrap your hot dogs.
Let the pictures tell the story… Click on the pictures to download the source documents if you think I’m making this up.
If you’d like to help us hold our organic ground, while we seek out the larger organizational support we need, please make a non-tax-deductible contribution. We will keep planting native trees without the use of toxic chemicals, while supporting a network of small rural entrepreneurs to stay in the nursery business, as well as a small local ngo and subsistence farm families who receive them.www.iGiveTrees.com
As governments and citizens face up to the reality of climate change and the urgent need for action to reduce heat-trapping Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere, one of the more controversial solutions presented has been that of “Carbon Sinks”. Plantation forests are being presented as a means for growing trees to absorb more carbon dioxide from the air and help to reduce global temperatures. African countries such as Uganda are a focus for their location.
But activists who have looked more closely at the practice and reality of these industrial tree plantations note that they are often very damaging to local communities and the surrounding environment. Even their actual impact on carbon reduction can be called into question. Many believe that strong action is urgently needed to reduce the carbon dioxide being produced by industry, instead of looking for “solutions” that absolve them of responsibility.
Now the Genetic Engineering industry is hoping to turn this crisis into an opportunity for profit, by promoting GE trees as the next solution to climate change. By making claims for fast growth and increased carbon absorption by GE trees, the industry is evidently trying to push for acceptance through a different route. Furthermore, activists and policy makers working on climate change issues may be less aware of the threats presented by GE trees and GE technology in general, and may also be unaware that the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in April 2006 urged countries to take a very cautious approach to GE trees.
GE tree plantations will only serve to exacerbate the problems and bad practices of the worst industrial tree plantations, whilst presenting an appalling risk of contamination and cross-pollination to global forest ecosystems.
For more information on the issue go to : (Thanks to Chris Lang for these sources)
-The Global Justice Ecology Project web-site has up-to-date articles: http://www.globaljusticeecology.org/
-The Cornerhouse briefing on GE trees: http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/item.shtml?x=51977
-The World Rainforest Movement / Friends of the Earth International book on GE trees: http://chrislang.blogspot.com/2004_12_20_chrislang_archive.html
-WRM has lots of information/short articles on GE trees: http://www.wrm.org.uy/subjects/biotechnology.html
-Chris Lang’s articles on GE trees: http://chrislang.blogspot.com/1999_03_27_chrislang_archive.html
After spending the last three and a half months back in Brazil, reaching our 5,200 tree mark for reforestation, I have very little to say. I am silently processing what I discovered: GMO corn and eucalyptus trees are rapidly replacing the most diverse rainforest on the planet.
This article contains a link to the documentary “Silent Forest” and describes what I have now observed within a few miles of our planting areas. “Genetically enhanced” eucalyptus trees are covering once forested hillsides and mountains. They will be turned to pulp and shipped abroad, primarily for paper products: diapers, tissues, books and pharmaceuticals. Some of it may even land in your “organic” food and supplements as powdered cellulose.
And the trees will release pollens that we can only pray, Nature will refuse to mingle with the native species.
Corn. We discovered the GM corn in rural fields near one of the nurseries. They are silent places, unlike the native forests. No birds, no insects, no bees, no butterflies.
The small Brazilian NGO I work with said school children had described these dead forests and fields to them, while no one knew why it was so. Poor rural families simply accepted money offered to them to plant the trees on their barren hillsides, or for the promise of higher prices paid for their crops of the new corn in the cities.
When I asked people in both countryside and city, what they knew about GMOs, known there as Transgenics, few had any knowledge at all. No one seemed aware that the Lo-Cal sweetener they were using instead of natural sugar, the corn they ate in a multitude of forms, the greens, and even the rice that filled our plates, were loaded. They were unaware that Monsanto had bought up the vast majority of commercial seed company’s and funded the international NGO that funds the majority of environmental education.
Monsanto executives described a world with 100 percent of all commercial seeds genetically modified and patented. Anderson Consulting then worked backwards from that goal, and developed the strategy and tactics to achieve it. They presented Monsanto with the steps and procedures needed to obtain a place of industry dominance in a world in which natural seeds were virtually extinct.
Integral to the plan was Monsanto’s influence in government, whose role was to promote the technology worldwide and to help get the foods into the marketplace quickly, before resistance could get in the way. A biotech consultant later said, “The hope of the industry is that over time, the market is so flooded that there’s nothing you can do about it. You just sort of surrender.”
The anticipated pace of conquest was revealed by a conference speaker from another biotech company. He showed graphs projecting the year-by-year decrease of natural seeds, estimating that in five years, about 95 percent of all seeds would be genetically modified.
While some audience members were appalled at what they judged to be an arrogant and dangerous disrespect for nature, to the industry this was good business. Their attitude was illustrated in an excerpt from one of Monsanto’s advertisements: “So you see, there really isn’t much difference between foods made by Mother Nature and those made by man. What’s artificial is the line drawn between them.”
To implement their strategy, the biotech companies needed to control the seeds-so they went on a buying spree, taking possession of about 23 percent of the world’s seed companies. Monsanto did achieve the dominant position, capturing 91 percent of the GM food market. Read more…
The preceding quotes are excerpts from “Seeds of Deception” by Jeffrey M. Smith
Reading a rural magazine, I discovered that in Brazil’s Cerrado, a new method of reforestation had been devised through Monsanto’s partnership with Conservation International. There they pay local people handsomely, to collect native tree seeds that are then mixed with GM crop seeds, and spread using farm equipment to do cheap, mass reforestation.
I can’t find words to describe these feelings yet. I feel as silent as the forest. And from that silence, I trust some form of guidance will emerge.
If you’d like to help us hold our organic ground, and seek out the larger organizational support we need, please make a non-tax-deductible contribution to support our advocacy.
Trees of Transformation is the first in a series of wake up storybooks about the people who are taking a stand for Nature in the midst of corporate giants. One of those people is Alana Lea, who became a voice for the Atlantic Forest in Brazil where she was born –– now 93% gone.
Discover what she learned as a social entrepreneur, on a mission of organic reforestation, facing international non-profit greenwash. You’ll meet the people who inspire her, and deepen her determination to find solutions, as well as what gives her hope. This is the story of a Mother turned environmental advocate, inviting you to discover, innovate, partner and find solutions with her, creating the future we all want for our children.
iTunes Trees of Transformation
Suppose you lived in a beautiful neighborhood of Sao Paulo, and you learn that the City has decided it’s the ideal location to build a new prison. What do you do? Complain endlessly about how wrong this is? Or take a creative action: plant a forest on the lot, knowing they can’t cut it down.
This was exactly the brilliant citizen activism of a small group in Vila Magdalena, who started their forest 20 years ago. Preferring to remain anonymous, the early members of this action meet each weekend to tend and increase their plantings. Now the City has become a partner, giving some small measure of help.
Neighbors get to know one another while they learn about Nature with their children. One of the people who has done a large part of the work is now paid as a gardener, rather than just receiving poverty benefits.
What can we learn from this?
This week I welcomed an invitation to hike through Floresta da Tijuca, the largest urban forest in the world. Turns out it’s one of the most successful reforestation projects on the planet, right here, within the city of Rio de Janeiro.
To me it’s beyond exquisitely beautiful. This forest inhales worry and and exhales hope. It reassures me, that given a bit of wisdom, massive action and enough time, Nature does repair herself. It keeps me motivated to keep planting trees in neighboring areas, former forests, that have been slashed and burned, where people now suffer the consequences: diminished water supplies, landslides and floods.
In 1861, Dom Pedro II, the Brazilian Emperor, issued a decree expropriating degraded coffee plantations from their owners near Rio de Janeiro. The decree encouraged reforestation of the mountainous area, and was aimed at restoring watershed services to the city. After all the original forest had been destroyed to make way for coffee farms, Tijuca was replanted by Major Manuel Gomes Archer. These actions led to the restoration of the Tijuca Forest, ultimately inaugurated as the Tijuca National Park. It’s now the largest urban forest in the world (14.7 square miles).
In 1961, Tijuca Forest was declared a National Park. Among its impressive peaks is the Pedra da Gávea. The Forest contains a number of attractions, most notably the colossal sculpture of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado mountain.
Please help us to restore more forests like this one. www.iGiveTrees.com