(Response to Mr. Andrade from Winnie Overbeek and Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher, members of the Steering Committee of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees below)

Dear Mrs. Petermann.

I can understand that the commercial release of the first transgenic tree in the World may be surrounded by a cloud of worries, derived from different risk perceptions. However, decisions have to be taken on the basis of risk assessment, not on risk perceptions. That is the duty of CTNBio, the Brazilian GMO regulatory agency. The agency has thoroughly evaluated this GM event and came to the conclusion it is safe. Indeed, the GM eucalyptus is far from been a dangerous organism, as frequently presented by some groups, especially in Brazil:

  1. a) it is not native from our country;
  2. b) it does not cross with any plant in Brazil, except with Eucalyptus itself;
  3. c) eucalyptus are very seldom propagated by seeds nowadays;
  4. d) the general agronomic characteristics of the GM eucalyptus are very similar, if not identical, to the non transformed variety. It will not behave as a vicious water sponge.
  5. e) seeds, if produced, are not usually by animals and pollination is effectively restricted to less than 600 m
  6. g) pollen is proved to be innocuous to bees (both Apis and other native species)

h)Brazil does not export seeds or eucalyptus products containing seeds.

Taken this information in account, as well as the large set of data derived from field and lab experiments, and following the regular risk assessment procedure, the Commission evaluated all concerns (or dangers) derived from the risk perception of different actors in the complex Brazilian GMO scenario. As already said, it correctly concluded the product is safe.

Please bear in mind that trade issues, as well as coexistence of different productive chains, are not the subject of CTNBio: similarly to EFSA or the OGTR, CTNBio only evaluates the direct (biological) risks of a GMO release.

Also bear in mind that all considerations concerning biosafety issues brought into discussion by the Cartagena Protocol have also been discussed at CTNBio. Trans-boundary movement of transgenic eucalyptus plantlets or seeds is highly improbable and accidental seed propagation elsewhere is even more improbable. Therefore, the release of this GM tree is solely a Brazilian question and no other country or group of countries has the right to interfere in our decision.

Please find enclosed a short risk assessment of this GM eucalyptus in Portuguese. I am convinced that, before engaging in such an international effort to block a technology that will find large use in my country, you and the thousands that signed the petition should get the attached text translated to English and have a good reading of it. Information is the key to right decisions and, as the Germans say, wer nichts weiss muss alles glauben.

Prof. Dr. Paulo Paes de Andrade

Laboratory of Molecular Genetics

Departmento de Genética/ Universidade Federal de Pernambuc

Recife  PE   Brasil

H421 Eucalyptus risk assessment – short – Portuguese

Response from Winnie Overbeek:

– if the CTNBio is doing its assessments and decision-taking ‘correctly’ , how does Mr Andrade explain the written complaint, signed by a public prosecutoron April 8th, from the National Forum to combat the impacts of Agrotoxins about very serious concerns with how the CTNBio has been doing its work, e.g. the systematic failure of respecting the Brazilian Biosafety Policy by the CTNBio?

– If the work of the CTNbio is so correct, then why is Brazil now number one in the world in ´consumption´ of agrotoxins – many of which linked to the GE crops that were released  by the CTNBio and are now planted in the country? The Brazilian agrotoxin consumption is about 6 liters per person per year, remembering there are about 200 million Brazilians! This is why peasants (most affected by this massive use of agrotoxins) and others groups in Brazil are so angry and desperate with this model based on agrotoxins, and formed a National Campaign;  many many thousands of peasants have died in silence, without being news. Many still are dying because of this huge amount of agrotoxins applied, that benefits  transnational companies in the first place;

– and last but not least, national borders in many countries in the world have been established by the dominant class at some point in a history marked by colonialism but they will never impede our solidarity actions that have no borders. It is actually an obligation for anyone to show solidarity with anyone else, whereever violations of any type or dangerous threats for that are taking place, such as this CTNBio approval of GM eucalyptus trees.

Response from Ricarda Steinbrecher of EcoNexus:

Regarding Mr. Andrade’s German quotation “wer nichts weiss muss alles glauben” (he who doesn’t know anything must believe everything) – I think the following is more applicable to his statement: “wer glaubt, alles zu wissen, muss noch viel lernen” (he who believes he knows everything still has to learn a lot”.