Telepress Conference Media Alert

“Who is Behind the Effort to Legalize Genetically Engineered American Chestnut Trees and Why it Matters”

Damning new White Paper on GE American chestnut trees, Resignation of American Chestnut Foundation Board members, response from Indigenous groups and who is funding the research will be discussed

Find the full media alert here:


For interviews and/or additional information from telepress conference presenters, please contact Press Secretary Steve Taylor at or +1.314.210.1322

Genetically Engineered American Chestnut White Paper

On 24 April 2019, The Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Biofuelwatch and Global Justice Ecology Project, Indigenous Environmental Network, Rural Coalition representing a network of groups collaborating to prevent the regulatory approval of GE trees in North America released a major 52-page white paper titled Biotechnology For Forest Health? The Test Case of the Genetically Engineered American Chestnut . The white paper offers an in-depth examination of the issues and concerns surrounding the GE American Chestnut. 

You can download the 2-page Executive Summary here.

Telepress Conference Presenter Biographies

Lois Breault-Melican is retired from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of State Parks as a Regional Interpretive Coordinator and her husband Denis as a Park Supervisor. As a Certified Interpretive Guide Lois helped plan and coordinate educational programs statewide.   She graduated from Becker College and attended The England School of Gardening at Tower Hill Botanic Garden and Clark University. Lois and her husband Denis, also a former TACF MA/RI Chapter board member and orchard manager, attended the Arnold Arboretum’s Institute for Cultural and Historic Landscape Studies and Radcliff Seminars.  Both are long time American Rhododendron Society members. They joined the The American Chestnut Foundation 2002 and in the following year they helped plant the 1st chestnut breeding orchard on state land in Massachusetts at the park. Lois is a past President of TACF’s MA/RI Chapter. She resigned from the Board of the American Chestnut Foundation on 28 March 2019 to protest the organization’s support for genetically engineering the American chestnut.  Read the letter of resignation here.

Anne Petermann is the co-Founder and Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project and co-founder and International Coordinator of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees.  She has been working for the protection of forests since 1989.  She has been investigating and exposing the social and ecological impacts of genetically engineered trees since 2000 and has presented these concerns to Parties and delegates at UN Climate Summits, Biodiversity Conventions and Forest Forums on five continents.  She has also investigated and documented the social, ecological and economic impacts of industrial tree plantations in Africa, South America and the US., especially with regard to impacts on Indigenous Peoples, forest dependent communities, biodiversity and the climate.  Besides the issue of GE trees, Anne works in the global climate justice movement, co-founding several climate justice organizations since 2004.

Rachel Smolker, Ph.D. is co-Director of Biofuelwatch. She has researched, written about and campaigned to raise awareness of the impacts of large scale bioenergy since 2007.  Her work  spans from local grassroots organizing to participation in the United Nations conventions on climate and biodiversity.  Her work has focussed on forest, climate and public health impacts of large scale wood bioenergy, energy policy, and the emerging biotechnology dependent “bioeconomy.”  She is on the steering committee of the Campaign to Stop GE Trees, is a board member of the Global Forest Coalition and works with a broad range of allies nationally and internationally. She has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology and ecology from the University of Michigan, and prior to her role in Biofuelwatch she worked as a field biologist.

Brenda Jo McManama has been involved with Indigenous and environmental issues for the past 20 years. For the past nine years she has and currently works with Indigenous Environmental Network as the Save Our Roots Campaign Coordinator. BJ was also a member of two IEN delegations who traveled to the jungles of Peru and central Mexico to meet with Indigenous community leaders. The focus of these exchanges was to share cultural information and current shared mitigation, restoration, and subsistence challenges centered on forest and aquatic regions. When not working on national and global environmental issues, BJ participates with local environmental and social justice organizations whose focuses include maintaining food security and safety, and protecting water resources and forests from encroaching extractive industries.

Lorette Picciano has served since 1992 as Executive Director of the Rural Coalition, a Washington, DC-based alliance of more than 50 culturally diverse community-based organizations representing small producers and farmworkers in the US and Mexico. Just completing her 8th Farm Bill Debate, she has coordinated collaborative efforts to promote just and sustainable development in rural areas, particularly in civil rights in agriculture. RC’s team has secured more than 40 sections of new Farm Bill Policies to assure equal access to USDA programs for diverse farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers,

Her education includes a BS in Agriculture and Life Sciences from Cornell University in 1976, and an M. Ed. from the University of Hawaii as a participant in the Food Institute of the East-West Center and with fieldwork in the rural Philippines. She has worked since 1980 in Washington DC with several interfaith organizations on the farm crisis of the late 1980’s, on equity in food and farm policy, and on food security and fair trade.  With future RC colleagues she helped secure farm credit borrowers’ rights and programs for historically underserved farmers in the 1987 Agriculture Credit Act and Section 2501 of the 1990 Farm Bill. She serves on the Steering Committee for the USDA National Small Farmers Conference, on the Boards of Directors of World Farmers Inc., Agriculture Missions, Inc., and the Solidarity Economy Network, and as of January 2019, as a member of the Technical Advisory and Operational Committee (TOAC) of the Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC), one of four regional centers across the US. https//

Letter of Resignation from the American Chestnut Foundation Board of Directors over support for the GE American chestnut

Lois Breault-Melican resigned from the Board of The American Chestnut Foundation on 28 March 2019.  The letter of resignation submitted by Lois and her husband Denis can be found here.

Additional News & Analysis on the GE American chestnut and efforts to stop its release:

Let’s Farm Chestnuts Again

9 May 2019, by Charles C. Mann, Wall Street Journal Essay  “Genetic modification is controversial. Two board members of the Massachusetts/Rhode Island chapter of the Chestnut Foundation resigned last month to protest the transgenic tree. These plants are intended to be released into forests as wild trees, so of course people want them to be as ‘natural’ as possible. But agricultural chestnuts, meant to be grown in orchards, are another matter. Partly or mostly American hybrids are available for this purpose.”

How the Ag-Biotech Industry is Attempting to Manipulate Public Opinion with Unproven Genetically-Engineered Chestnut Trees

8 May 2019 Organic Insider

NPR On Point Program: How GMOs Might Save The American Chestnut Tree

29 April 2019 Dr. Rachel Smolker debates risks of deregulating GE American chestnut trees with GE American chestnut proponents.

Researchers can restore the American chestnut with genetic engineering. But at what cost?

29 April, 2019 The GM chestnut, a research project funded by Monsanto and other large agribusinesses, could infringe on indigenous sovereignty”. From The New Food Economy

Analysis of Survey on Public Acceptance of Forest Health Biotechnologies

18 April 2019 This brief report analyzes the details of a highly touted survey purporting to demonstrate that a majority of the public approves of GE trees.

Chestnut Champions Quit to Protest Genetic Engineering of Trees

28 March 2019 By Elaine Thompson Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Press Release: NAS Report Casts Doubt on Government Ability to Regulate GE Trees

30 January 2019 Press Release on the newly released NAS report Tree Biotechnology: Possibilities and Concerns, which raises flags that the preservation of forest health cannot be guaranteed by federal agencies if genetically engineered trees are deregulated for release into the wild.

Op-Ed in The Hill: The Forests are in Crisis, But Biotechnology is Not the Solution

28 March 2018 Commentary by white paper authors Dr. Rachel Smolker and Anne Petermann

Presentation to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine on “Risks, Concerns, and Potential Problems Regarding the Use of Biotechnology to Address Forest Health”

27 March 2018 webinar presentation by white paper authors Dr. Rachel Smolker and Anne Petermann as part of the NAS study on The Potential for Forest Biotechnology to Address Forest Health