WATCH: Pulp and Paper Industry a Culprit in Spread of Chilean Wildfires

Originally published in Spanish by Puntofinal.cl. Translated into English through Google Translate.


Resistance to the forest business grows in several points of the center-south of Chile. The mega fires last summer and the threat of introducing transgenic trees into the natural environment, which would expand the disaster of monoculture plantations, triggered a process of articulation of various social organizations that culminated in a week of protest and agitation against a predatory model that Plunder territories.

The actions revolved around the rejection of the Congress of Tree Biotechnology of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), held in Concepción, which brought together researchers from all over the world to promote the development of genetic modification of trees in Chile, Seeking to facilitate extractive industrial processes under the facade of a neutral scientific activity.

The international conference was financed by Celulosa Arauco, of the Angelini Group, which together with the Matte Group account for 70% of forest exports; And by the National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development (Fondecyt), dependent on the State. It was also sponsored by three transnational companies: Gondwana Genomics, Suzano Papel e Celulose and SweTree Technologies.

“We denounce the business lobby deployed by the forest companies Arauco and Mininco, among others, who have hijacked the knowledge of universities and scientific work to continue affecting the well-being of the population living surrounded by large plantations of radiata pine and eucalyptus, Says the public statement of the organizations convening the week of protest, which began with a “function” to the Congress of Tree Biotechnology during its inauguration.

Visiting Chile, Anne Petermann, director of Global Justice Ecology Project and international coordinator of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees , says that there is a clear relationship in the choice of the country by IUFRO and the desire of industry and government Local to promote there transgenic tree plantations. “This happened with the Biotechnology Conference of IUFRO Trees 2011 that took place in Brazil, where the production of genetically modified eucalyptus was approved in 2015; And the United States, which hosted the 2013 IUFRO Conference, is now trying to legalize transgenic eucalyptus plantations. “



Transgenic trees threaten to expand the disaster of pine and eucalyptus monoculture plantations in Chile, which have devastating impacts on rural communities, population health, access to water, agriculture and forests. Like agricultural transgenics, they are not meant to satisfy any need of people, but are designed only to increase corporate profits.

Lucio Cuenca, director of the Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts (Olca), says that the forest industry through genetic modification seeks to face some difficulties such as pest management, to have species that adapt to new environmental conditions resulting from climate change, and trees That grow faster, with the central axis being the multiplication of profits, without considering the impacts to ecosystems and local communities.

Because these trees are designed to grow faster and larger, they would use much more water than other plantations and would degrade the soil faster. They would use more pesticides, which will cause more water to be poisoned, more contaminated soil, more sick or dead animals, and people’s health will be more affected.

He warns that in Chile there are no regulations on research and biosafety in the development of transgenic trees, which give certainty to the companies involved in the business. The State invests millions of resources in research in different university centers with the participation of companies, for the development of this new technology. In this respect there is no public information, no democratic debate, regarding the risks that this represents.

For the director of the Olca, an organization that is part of the High Transgenic Trees International Campaign, the transgenic forest has been investigated for some time in Chile, but the social movement has managed to delay its progress by halting UPOV91 projects, Plant breeder’s law or Monsanto Law, and the biosafety law, which made it possible to legalize the introduction of transgenic plants into the natural environment. “Transgenic biotechnology is an interested science, which is tailored to the interests of forestry companies,” he says.



In the Bío Bío Region, forest plantations surpass native green areas, with more than 1.2 million hectares. The commune of Tomé is one of the affected. Andrea Robinson of the Tomecina Coordinator warns of community fears about the introduction of transgenic trees: deepening the water crisis and pollution that affects local economic activities, causing impoverishment in the territories.

Transgenic trees do not only grow where they are planted, they can spread their pollen and seeds in other plantations and forests, which makes them even more dangerous because if this phenomenon starts, there is no way to stop it.

The leader says that in Tomé there are many families and territorial organizations, such as the Community Union of Organic Orchards that work the land in a sustainable way, that are organizing against the forest model, as this constitutes an attack on food sovereignty, The subsistence economy and the way of life of the communities.

For the past four years, the people of Tomé have been struggling against the Penco-Lirquén LNG project, which seeks to install a maritime terminal for the transfer of gas in Concepción Bay. Today the call is to organize and mobilize against the forest model: “We do not want them to decide again for us, we aspire to an autonomous community, with popular democracy,” says Andrea Robinson.

Edison Neira, a spokesman for the Penco-Lirquén Coordination, says that the catastrophe of last summer’s forest fires, which exposed the business and profit networks, the existence of pests, their lack of control and insurance collections, marked a A later one in the social perception on the impact of the forest model. Many people from that fact began to question the massive and risks of monocultures, which constitute a serious danger of forest fires because they are highly flammable and large propagators of fire because they dry all water sources. “For a long time the inhabitants of territories surrounded by forest plantations have been passive, unlike the Mapuche people who have long been resisting the impacts of the model,” he says.Neira adds that with the week of agitation was sought to generate a counter-response of the settlers to the conference Iufro. One of the long-term objectives is to eliminate Decree Law 701, with which the State provides direct subsidies to forestry companies, which have reached up to 90% of the cost of planting their plantations. “From the Penco-Lichen Coordination we are working with several organizations to recover our sea, in the hands of fishing industry, and our land, devastated by the forest, so that our people can live and develop, generate local economies and rebuild The social fabric. We want the territory for the settlers and we are standing up to defend ours “.



Alfredo Seguel, of the Network of Defense of the Territories of the Araucanía and of the Collective Mapuexpress, warns that the main ones affected by the monocultivos forestales in the Araucanía and good part of Bío Bío are communities Mapuches, who have been object of territorial depojo , Impoverishment, water crisis due to the high concentration of plantations, depredation of the territory and forced emigrations. “Today the threat of transgenics is to intensify these damages and impacts and increase conflicts. The genetic modifications are to generate trees that continue to be massified in the mountain range, to capture deeper water from the underground beds and continue to unbalance biodiversity and ecosystems. There is no ethics, there are no principles, there is no morality, there is no minimum capacity to rethink economic activities in which respect for people and nature is considered. Only primitive acts of profit at the expense of predation, ” he says.

For Seguel, there is an active resistance to the forestry model in various parts of south-central Chile, and the position of demanding restoration of the territories, of curbing and reversing monocultures of plantations that exceed three million Hectares and to open space for other forms of development, thinking of local economies, markets with identity, belonging and solidarity, not this market of death and predation that is the forest industry. In this context, “transgenics are new forms of threats. They pose new challenges to avoid their spread before the descriptions of companies, sectors of the State and academic groups who care nothing for the common good, ” he says.

Lucio Cuenca adds that in all countries where there are conflicts associated with the expansion of the forest industry, they are linked to the processes of land concentration that generate the companies to the detriment of the peasant and indigenous communities. “The countries of the region have unresolved problems with the indigenous peoples and precisely in their territories – as is the case with the Mapuche people – this industry expands.”

The director of the Olca denounces that the policy of providing raw materials at low cost to the countries of high consumption, without considering the social, cultural, human rights violations and impoverishment of our countries, is promoted by international organizations such as FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), and subsidized by States according to the global economy.

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