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GM poplars released and unregulated are hard to trace, GM trees are a potential ecological disaster and should be banned

One million GM trees

BT poplars in chinaFifty years of relentless development has forced China’s forests into retreat. Inevitable environmental consequences such as desertification and flash floods have resulted in China becoming a net importer of wood. The Great Green Wall project (2001) sponsored by the Government aims at planting a 2800-mile long shelterbelt of trees across the northwest rim skirting the Gobi desert. This is intended to combat sandstorms blowing closer to Beijing, at a cost of 96.2b yen.

Over one million GM trees have been planted in "reforestation" initiatives since commercialisation was approved by The Chinese State Forestry Administration in 2002. In the northwest regions of Xinjiang province 8 000 square kilometres of farmlands are given over to GM tree mono-plantations. A further 400 000 GM poplars planted around the headlands of the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers continue to be plagued by insect pests although they are engineered to be pest resistant. GM trees introduced into the environment without any proper controls have subsequently been "lost" to monitoring.

Wang Huoron from the Chinese Academy of Sciences told the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 2003 that the GM poplars "are so widely planted in China that pollen and seed dispersal cannot be prevented." He also reported to the FAO that without any licensing system and exchanges between nurseries of traditional and GM plant varieties has made it "extremely difficult to trace" the location of GM trees.

Read more: GM Trees Lost in China’s Forests

Sam Burcher reports on a global movement to ban GM trees.

GM forest2Some 400 GM birch trees (Betula pendula) in a single GM field study situated in Punkaharju, Finland have been either ripped up or cut down by unknown parties at an estimated cost of 1.21 million euros in June 2004.

After the attack, the researchers at the Finnish Forest Research claimed that their purpose was to examine the environmental risks of horizontal gene transfer. When they originally applied for permission for the field trial in 2000, however, it was to study the carbon-nitrogen processes of GM trees.

Protests against GM trees greeted the 4 th UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) in Geneva in May 2004 because of the “Decision” to draft plans for GM tree projects made at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP9) in Milan in December 2003.

GM trees have been included in the Kyoto Protocol as a means of generating carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism. Carbon credits sold in this way are not subject to the traceability legislation that applies to all other GM imports into Europe and therefore countries hosting GM trees will have no way of knowing whether their credits are GM free or not.

Read more: No to GM Trees