United Nations Promotes Tree Plantations and Genetically Engineered Trees: Threatens Forests and Communities


18 May 2005

Contact: Simone Lovera, Friends of the Earth International, +31-6-53668298

Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project, +1-802-578-0477

United Nations Promotes Tree Plantations and Genetically Engineered Trees: Threatens Forests and Communities

UN General Headquarters, New York City (U.S.)—The United Nations Forum on Forests, meeting this and next week in New York, is promoting the conversion of native forests into industrial monoculture tree plantations.

“Over the course of the next century, the greatest threat to native forests is the rampant replacement by monoculture tree plantations which include plantations of genetically engineered trees,” stated Simone Lovera, of Friends of the Earth International. “ This trend is happening all over the world, threatening forest dwelling and indigenous communities and devastating biodiversity,” she continued.

“Monoculture tree plantations have documented negative environmental, social and economic impacts,” agreed Ana Filippini of World Rainforest Movement. “It is astonishing that the UNFF persists in promoting these tree plantations that destroy forests, grasslands and wetlands, deplete water and food for wildlife, cause people to be evicted from their homelands, and deprive them of their livelihoods—and have a particularly profound impact on indigenous peoples and women,” she added. [1]

This trend toward industrial forestry is echoed in other agencies of the UN. Recently exposed was the UN’s role in the widespread development of plantations of genetically engineered poplar trees, modified to kill insects, throughout regions of China.

In 1990 the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) began working with China to develop GE tree plantations. While the exact area planted with GE trees is unknown, it is estimated that since 2002, over 2,500 hectares of GE insect-resistant poplars have been planted. Without oversight to control the pollination of these trees, contamination of native forests with engineered traits is inevitable. [2] This will lead to severe ecological disruptions in these forests. [3]

In December 2003, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed that GE trees could be used in forestry plantations developed to offset carbon emissions from the industrialized North. “The PR propaganda emerging from the promoters of GE tree technology that these franken-trees will help stop global warming is absurd,” stated Anne Petermann of the Global Justice Ecology Project, adding “native forests are critically important carbon sinks. If released, GE trees, which can pollinate for hundreds of miles, will contaminate and devastate native forests, exacerbating global warming.” [4]

The preceding release is a joint statement from Friends of the Earth International, World Rainforest Movement, Global Forest Coalition, Global Justice Ecology Project and the STOP GE Trees Campaign.


The Problems with Monoculture Tree Plantations and Genetically Engineered Trees:

[1] Fast-growing plantations of trees have been documented to rapidly deplete groundwater and cause desertification of soils, devastating nearby forests and communities. In Africa, the conversion of native forests to plantations has led to influxes of workers, prostitution and the increase of incidences of HIV/AIDS.

[2] Researchers at Duke University have found that trees spread pollen for up to 2,000 kilometers. Industry asserts that trees engineered for the above traits will be sterile— preventing contamination. But researchers admit that sterility in trees cannot be guaranteed. Native trees that become contaminated with GE pollen will themselves become contaminants, and will contaminate more trees in an endless and irreversible cycle.

[3] Engineering trees for herbicide resistance will lead to increased applications of toxic chemicals causing water contamination and poisoning of wildlife and humans. Lignin protects trees, giving them rigidity, and is removed to make paper. Engineering trees for reduced lignin makes trees susceptible to disease, insect infestation and animal browsing, as well as environmental stresses like wind. Insect-resistant trees produce the bacterial toxin Bt, which kills beneficial insects and causes the evolution of Bt resistant “super-pests,” leading to applications of more toxic insecticides. Exuded through the roots, Bt kills soil microbes. Additionally, physicians in the Philippines have found indications that Bt pollen leads to immunological reactions in humans who inhale it.

[4] The World Resources Institute and the U.S. EPA found that, in tropical regions, plantations at best store 1/4 the carbon of native forests. Therefore the replacement of native forests by plantations will worsen global warming. Plantations have been found to be at high risk of catching fire, releasing carbon, indicating that plantation carbon sinks will potentially make global warming worse, not better. Wildfires in Indonesia in 1995 released more carbon than the entire European Union that year.

For additional information including documented sources, go to


Global Justice Ecology Project
PO Box 412,
Hinesburg, VT 05461 USA
(802) 482-2689 ph/fax

Anne Petermann
Global Justice Ecology Project
P.O. Box 412
Hinesburg, VT 05461
+1-802-482-2689 ph/fax
+1-802-578-0477 mobile


Global Justice Ecology Project Mission Statement

Global Justice Ecology Project advances global justice and ecological awareness by identifying issues, creating strategies, organizing campaigns, building alliances and disseminating photographic images that demonstrate the interconnections between the social and the ecological, promoting a crucial holistic analysis to unify and strengthen movements.



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