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Two Arrested at Genetically Engineered Tree Conference

Two Arrested at Genetically Engineered Tree Conference

Global Justice Ecology Project

As the Tree Biotechnology 2013 conference kicked off early Monday, two Asheville, NC, residents were arrested after disrupting a major presentation, Engineering Trees for the Biorefinery, by Belgian tree engineer, Wout Boerjan.
 
The protestors said that if legalized, genetically engineered (GE) trees would lead to the destruction of native forests and biodiversity in the U.S. South, and be economically devastating to rural communities.

Steve Norris (left) and Laura Sorensen (right) about to be taken into custody and arrested for disrupting the Tree Biotechnology 2013 conference yesterday morning. The Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees and other anti-GE tree demonstrators are in Asheville this week to confront the industry conference. Photo courtesy of Langelle/
photolangelle.org for Global Justice Ecology Project.

The talk was disrupted for 20 minutes.

"We took dignified action today to directly confront the growing corporate control over our seeds, forests and communities," said farmer and professor Steve Norris. "We are sending a crystal clear message to the GE tree industry and its investors: expect resistance."
 
The bi-annual Tree Biotechnology conference, convened by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations, is the premier industry and research conference on GE trees. This year's conference, being held May 26 through June 1, is at the Asheville Marriott Renaissance Hotel.
 
Anti-GE tree demonstrators from across the region have converged on Asheville for a week of action to protest the conference proceedings. They are calling attention to South Carolina-based ArborGen's pending request with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to sell millions of GE eucalyptus trees across the U.S. South.
 
"We know that GE trees are a disaster for forests and biodiversity," said Laura Sorensen, one of the demonstrators arrested on Monday. "With predictions of worsening extreme weather in our region, the last thing we need are highly flammable and invasive plantations of water-hungry eucalyptus trees. As a grandmother, I see no future in this for my grandchildren," she added.

Last month, the USDA public comment period for ArborGen's GE eucalyptus was flooded with 37,580 comments opposing its legalization, with only four comments in favor—a difference of almost 99.99 percent to .01 percent.

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