GENETICALLY ENGINEERED TREES ARE TARGETED

SUMMARY: "From Pritchard Park to the Renaissance Hotel, protesters spent nearly four hours trying to get their message across: genetically engineered trees are bad news for the environment. About 200 people participated in a rally Tuesday aimed at confronting the genetically engineered tree industry, specifically South Carolina-based ArborGen. The protesters chose Asheville because this week it is the site of the International Union of Forest Research Organization Tree Biotechnology 2013 Conference at the Renaissance Hotel. Thomas Llewellyn of Real Cooperative said other countries have been protesting genetically engineered trees for years, but the issue is relatively new to the United States."

ASHEVILLE — From Pritchard Park to the Renaissance Hotel, protesters spent nearly four hours trying to get their message across: genetically engineered trees are bad news for the environment.

About 200 people participated in a rally Tuesday aimed at confronting the genetically engineered tree industry, specifically South Carolina-based ArborGen. The protesters chose Asheville because this week it is the site of the International Union of Forest Research Organization Tree Biotechnology 2013 Conference at the Renaissance Hotel.

Thomas Llewellyn of Real Cooperative said other countries have been protesting genetically engineered trees for years, but the issue is relatively new to the United States. Global Justice Ecology Project, one of the event’s organizers, is targeting ArborGen because it has a request pending with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to sell millions of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees for planting in the South.

“We’re at a precipice,” Llewellyn said shortly after the 4 p.m. rally began. “We have the opportunity to stop genetically engineered trees from being legalized in the United States. We have a chance to stop it before our forests our contaminated.”

Genetically engineered eucalyptus trees will destroy biodiversity and displace wildlife, said Ann Petermann, executive director of Global Justice Ecology Project.

“This is a battle we can win,” Petermann said. “This is something we have to stop, and we have to stop it here.”

Organizers say public opposition is one of the biggest deterrents for the genetically engineered tree industry.

Police on Monday arrested two protesters who interrupted a presentation at the conference, which touts itself as the “premier international venue for presenting and discussing new developments and ideas for current and future research in tree genetics, genomics and biotechnology.”

No arrests were made during Tuesday’s demonstration.

About a half-dozen officers on bikes rode along with the marchers as they made their way through downtown to the hotel, standing on the sidewalk near the Thomas Wolfe House. They held signs and yelled various chants such as, “Live wild, live free, no biotechnology!” and “All your money and all your lies, we will never compromise.”

About a dozen more officers, including command staff, watched as protesters chanted for nearly three hours outside the hotel.

Sgt. Dave Romick said the hotel requested police presence.

Scot Quaranda of Dogwood Alliance said the South is “ground zero” for genetically engineered trees and lamented efforts of companies to burn forest trees for electricity. “These genetically modified eucalyptus trees are just the beginning of the mad science that is going to be happen in this region,” he said, referring to the thinking of some in the biotechnology field. “The idea is, if we can get these trees deregulated and release them wide scale, then we can modify every other tree under the sun so that we can grow it for energy.”

The conference, which invites researchers of the field and speakers, continues through Saturday. The theme is “Forest Biotechnology: Meeting the Needs of a Changing World” to reflect the changing role of forest biotechnology in addressing the growing need for sustainable, renewable sources of biomass, in the face of climate change.

SOURCE: The Asheville Citizen-Times, USA
AUTHOR: Romando Dixson
URL: http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20130529/NEWS/305290030/Genetically...
DATE: 28.05.2013