Potential Ecological and Social Impacts of Genetically Engineered Trees

Commentary on the official background paper by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entitled “The Potential Environmental, Cultural and Socio-Economic Impacts of Genetically Modified Trees” (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/13/INF/6)

(7 pages)
February, 2008

Co-published by 10 organisations: Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, EcoNexus, Ecoropa, Friends of Siberian Forest, Global Forest Coalition, Global Justice Ecology Project, PIPEC (Pacific Indigenous Peoples Environment Coalition), Stop GE Tree Campaign, Timberwatch Coalition, World Rainforest Movement.

Prepared for CBD SBSTTA 13 Meeting, Rome, Italy, 18-22 February, 2008

It is the purpose of the Convention on Biological Diversity to protect biological diversity in all of its richness – this is also done in awareness of its importance for the functioning of vital systems such as ecosystems, climate systems and water systems. Forests include some of the world’s most important biodiversity reserves with some forest soils alone containing thousands of species. Many of these species are endemic to particular ecosystems and the fragmenting of forest ecosystems has left these species highly vulnerable to new threats. It is therefore crucial that the CBD address emerging issues such as genetically engineered (modified) trees with an eye to ensuring that forest biological diversity is in no way negatively affected.

At the last Conference of the Parties, the CBD called for comments from Parties and other stakeholders with regard to “the potential environmental, cultural and socio-economic impacts” of GE trees. These have been compiled into two documents, INF-6, which is largely the CBD Secretariat’s interpretation of the information and analysis submitted (or published thereafter), and INF-7 which is a summary of the submissions from each Party or stakeholder. We thank the Secretariat for the considerable effort undertaken to assemble and order the information and research, which helps to provide an overview of this issue. However, it must be noted that a box of scientific reports and other documents pertaining to the environmental and social impacts of GE trees that was hand-delivered to the CBD Secretariat in Montreal by Global Justice Ecology Project and the STOP GE Trees Campaign was apparently lost and its contents not considered in the compilation of INF/6. This document is a joint commentary prepared by those organizations involved in the CBD process that are urging for a clear moratorium on the open release of GE trees, and was written in response to the INF-6 background document, to highlight areas of particular relevance and to point out areas where information has not been included or considered.