Shake Up at ArborGen

March 22nd, 2012 by

Last week on March 14, ArborGen, a leader in genetically engineered tree research and development, experienced a major shake up when its Board announced “new leadership changes at its senior executive level,” [1] after the failure of the company to go public on the NASDAQ in 2011. [2] Most significantly, Barbara Wells, their CEO and President since 2002 was replaced.

Today, Global Justice Ecology Project announced their new report, An Analysis of the State of GE Trees and Advanced Bioenergy, which details the evolution of the issue of GE trees from 2010 through 2012 and the global campaign to prohibit the release of GE trees.

The report reveals government, industry, university and research institution collusion to advance development of GE trees specifically designed for bioenergy production in the US and globally.

It also describes the impacts of a 2010 lawsuit against GE trees [3] brought against the USDA by a coalition of environmental organizations [4] that had a chilling effect on the GE trees industry by scaring off investors. [5]

“Global Justice Ecology Project published this new report to inform the public about the problems with genetically engineered trees and to highlight what is going on to stop them,” said Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project, and Coordinator of the STOP GE Trees Campaign.  “This exposé reveals government-industry backroom deals that are using the crisis of climate change and the need for renewable energy to stack the deck in favor of the mass-release of millions of GE trees to feed bioenergy production,” Petermann added.

The report critiques a recent USDA announcement regarding forthcoming changes to their regulatory procedures for reviewing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to enable corporations to bring their GE products to market in half the time it used to take–down from three years to 13-16 months. One of the GMO plants that would be included in this rapid review process is ArborGen’s GE eucalyptus tree. [6]

Scot Quaranda, Campaign Director for the North Carolina-based Dogwood Alliance stated, “The USDA can’t possibly review GE eucalyptus trees in 13-16 months. GE eucalyptus trees are non-native, invasive, explosively flammable and deplete ground water.  Developing plantations of them in a region that often suffers from extensive drought would be a disaster.” [7]

“If they rush approval of GE trees, the USDA is risking a huge public backlash and a lengthy legal challenge,” warned Global Justice Ecology Project Board Chair Orin Langelle.

In addition to exposing the rapid, government-supported development of GE trees in the US, the report discusses international strategies used by industry to open markets for GE tree products.  This includes attempts to greenwash GE trees by creating phony sustainability criteria for them.

To download the March 20, 2012 report, go to: Analysis of the Current State of GE Trees and Advanced Bioenergy.

Notes to Editors:

1. http://www.rubicon-nz.com/main.cfm?menu=news&itemid=115

2. BIOTECH: Tree developer postpones IPO

3. Groups Sue Government Over GMO Trees

4. Global Justice Ecology Project, Dogwood Alliance, Sierra Club, Center for Food Safety, International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Biological Diversity

5. Lawsuit highlights a barrier to biotechnology advancements in the U.S.

6. Monsanto, Dow Gene-Modified Crops to Get Faster U.S. Reviews

7. So-Called Confined field releases of GM Eucalyptus neither confined nor safe


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