World Rainforest Movement

Tree plantations and trade

Some of the conclusions and recommendations of the Latin American Workshop on the Impacts of an Eventual Millenium Road of the WTO, held on 6 and 7 November in Quito, Ecuador, are strongly related to the problems posed by the dominant tree plantation model.

The “need to change the current consumption patterns . . . which sustain the continuous growth of production” is underscored. In fact, the increasing demand for paper and paperboard in the North and by the privileged elites of the South is one of the direct causes of the expansion of tree monocultures to produce fibre. Under the heading “Education and Information for the Consumer” the workshop mentions the importance of keeping the public opinion informed “of the social and environmental impact of the substitution of forests by plantations of monocultures.” There is ample evidence, especially in tropical countries, that plantations do not serve to mitigate the pressure on forests but, on the contrary, are one of the causes of their destruction. Large expanses of forests have been cleared to give place to eucalyptus, pine, oil palm or melina monocultures. While local communities and indigenous people who live there know that and suffer the consequences, the problem is more difficult to be perceived by urban populations, so education and information play a very important role to raise awarness on this issue.

Raising awareness and taking action to face the development of genetically modified organisms is another among the recommendations published in this document and related to the tree monoculture model. In this sense, research in course by joint-ventures formed by plantation and genetic engineering companies to obtain “super-trees” show a worrying trend which needs to be addressed.