On 9 April 2015, Brazil’s Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio) approved the commercial use of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees. The application came from FuturaGene, a company owned by pulp and paper giant Suzano.
Suzano’s plantations are FSC-certified. Estevão do Prado Braga, who works for Suzano, is a member of FSC’s Board.
Yet FSC’s Policy of Association does not allow FSC to associate with companies that introduce genetically modified organisms into forestry operations.
FSC has a policy of association under which, “Introduction of genetically modified organisms in forestry operations” is not acceptable.
In 2010, Suzano bought biotechnology company FuturaGene. In January 2014, FuturaGene applied to Brazil’s National Technical Biosafety Commission (CTNBio) for approval to plant GE trees on a commercial scale.
In June 2014, FSC-Watch reported that Brazilian company Suzano was planning to use genetically engineered trees in its plantations, and asked whether FSC would therefore dissociate from Suzano, in accordance with its policy of association.
The Campaign to STOP GE Trees recently wrote to FSC, calling on FSC to dissociate from Suzano.
FSC’s Policy of Association does not allow FSC to associate with companies that introduce genetically modified organisms into forestry operations. Suzano is FSC-certified and plans to plant GE trees on a commercial scale. Will FSC therefore dissociate from Suzano?
Following FSC-Watch’s post questioning FSC’s position on genetically modified trees, (and an article in the World Rainforest Movement Bulletin), the Stop GE Trees Campaign has written to Heiko Liedeker requesting clarification. Copies of the letter have also been sent to FSC’s Board and to Andre de Freitas, FSC’s Head of Policy and Standards. (I wrote to de Freitas on 23 August 2007, requesting a clarification of FSC’s position on GM trees. De Freitas did not reply.)
“Use of genetically modified organisms shall be prohibited,” states Criterion 6.8 of FSC’s Principles and Criteria. That appears to be clear. Strictly interpreted this would mean that a company carrying out laboratory research into GE trees (and/or financing such research) should not be certified under the FSC system, because that would involve the use of genetically modified organisms. Unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly, FSC’s Certification Bodies (assessors) don’t take such a strict interpretation of criterion 6.8.