Asheville, NC (US)-As the Tree Biotechnology 2013 conference kicked off early Monday, two Asheville residents were arrested after disrupting a major presentation by Belgian tree engineer Wout Boerjan entitled, "Engineering trees for the biorefinery."
The protestors said that if legalized, GE trees would lead to the destruction of native forests and biodiversity in the US South, and be economically devastating to rural communities. The talk was disrupted for 20 minutes.
Farmer and professor Steve Norris said, "We took dignified action today to directly confront the growing corporate control over our seeds, forests, and communities. 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 (IUFRO), is the premier industry and research conference on GE trees. This year's conference is being held from 26 May 26-1 June 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 US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to sell millions of GE eucalyptus trees across the US 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.