World Rainforest Movement

Future Forest Policy must exclude GMO trees

One of the issues that has not been addressed in the discussions about the World Bank’s future Forest Policy and Strategy is that of the Bank’s position regarding genetically modified organisms. This needs to be urgently addressed, particularly because the following information is generating concern within the environmental movement:

– Although the subject of genetically modified organisms has become one of the most visible environmental debates, the World Bank’s latest annual environmental report chooses to be silent on the issue.

– A closed-door meeting held on 5 December by President Wolfensohn with the Chief Executive Officers of the world’s leading biotechnology corporations seems to indicate that the institution is in the process of defining its role in promoting genetically modified agriculture, including forestry. Present at the meeting were the CEOs of Aventis, BASF, Bayer, Dow AgroSciences, Dupont, Emergent Genetics, Merial Limited, Monsanto, Seminis, Syngenta, Cargill and Mahyco

– A report distributed at the Forest Policy regional consultation for Sub-Saharan Africa indicates that plantations of genetically modified trees are considered to be part of the solution of the world’s forest crisis: “If the remaining forest areas are to be preserved, it is important to recognize that future timber production will have to come from increased productivity of plantations supported by biotechnology gains…”

The risks of biotechnology in the forestry sector are not yet well understood, but could be devastating. The long timeframes of tree plantations and the fact that they are often established in remote areas and in proximity of natural forest areas require serious examination of the potential threats to biodiversity from genetic pollution and invasiveness. In addition, a promotion of biotechnology in the forestry sector might accelerate inappropriate plantation development resulting in social problems and negative impacts on soils and water cycles which are well-documented.

The World Bank can play a major role in protecting the World’s forests. However, the use of GMO trees is not only no solution at all to that end but, on the contrary, could be the final blow against forests and the peoples that depend on them. The Bank’s future forest policy must therefore exclude GMO trees from all Bank-funded activities.

Article based on information from: Memorandum January 8, 2001 to Second Meeting of the TAG in Washington, D.C.- Korinna Horta, Ned Daly and Kay Treakle