BELGIUM – At the end of the climate summit in Marrakesh, 20 activists from theField Liberation Movement planted a “permit to cut” in a field of GMO poplar trees belonging to the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology. The permit was given symbolically to Joke Schauvliege, the Flemish Minister responsible for climate policy. The central message is to stop false solutions for the climate crisis, and to direct research to real solutions for the current climate and energy challenges.
The Minister became infamous for a statement regarding forest management: “Trees have always had the function to be cut”. With this in mind, activists are encouraging her to cut this particular field of GMO trees.
The Flemish Institute of Biotechnology is hoping to acquire a patent for the production of agrofuels from GMO trees, and is promoting that as an alternative to fossil fuels. The genetic manipulation that has been carried out on these trees makes them weaker, increasing potentially the yield of ethanol. Instead of tackling the causes of climate change, investments are being made in false solutions that create a social and environmental problems.
Energy production from biomass risks shifting the burden of providing energy for the West onto other parts of the world. Commercial plantations for agrofuels would not be grown in Belgium, and so the government is investing in a hypothetical technology that promotes land-grabbing, conflicts over water and competition for land between food and energy crops. Not only is biodiversity threatened through the implanting of large-scale monocultures, it is also impossible to control the risk of GMO contamination in such large-scale production.
The field trial is being conducted by the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology (VIB), a research institute which receives funding from the Flemish government, the European Union and multinationals such as BASF, Syngenta and Bayer. These companies are on the board of the VIB and help to determine the research agenda that pays no attention to research on the causes of the climate crisis, or local and decentralized solutions.
The Field Liberation Movement demands that the VIB develops a research programme that pioneers sustainable technology, to serve the public interest.
Field Liberator Elke Paret: “Joke, if there is one forest that must be cut in Flanders, then it’s the Poplars in Wetteren. It presents a grave danger for biodiversity, and is a waste of taxpayer’s money.”
The Field Liberation Movement stands in solidarity with the international movement against monoculture tree plantations.