Over the past weeks FSC has held a consultation on changing its policy on genetically engineered trees. For years FSC’s policy on genetically engineered trees has been confusing and weak. FSC is now trying to dismantle its already weak position by allowing field testing of GE trees.
The Global Justice Ecology Project has set up a petition opposing the proposed changes. You can sign on to the petition here: https://bit.ly/FSC-GE-tree-ban (the deadline is 14 December 2021).
Please sign the petition and share it widely!
Here is the text of the petition:
FSC: Protect forests from Genetically Engineered trees (open to groups & individuals)December 14, 2021
Kim Carstensen, Director General
Forest Stewardship Council
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): Protect our forests from Genetically Engineered tree threats
We, the undersigned, demand FSC reject GE trees.
Dear Mr. Carstensen,
We oppose Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) proposals to endorse field tests of genetically engineered (GE), also called genetically modified (GM) trees. The FSC must disassociate itself from any GE tree research activities and continue to clearly prohibit the commercial growing of GE trees.
The importance of FSC’s current prohibition on genetically engineered trees in FSC products is particularly critical given the recent Brazilian approval for commercial growing of a glyphosate-resistant GE eucalyptus tree, developed by the FSC-certified company Suzano. This new decision also shows the need to stop GE tree research by FSC members from moving ahead.
Genetically engineered trees threaten the future of our forests. They pose a wide range of possible environmental and social impacts that could increase over time as contamination spreads. FSC needs to continue to play a key role in preventing those impacts.
Genetically engineered trees are a threat to our collective future and have no place in FSC activities and FSC-certified products. The FSC needs to act to protect our forest ecosystems from GE trees rather than open the door to this dangerous experiment.
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.