Concerns about antibiotic resistance genes, honey contamination, and water extraction have not been addressed, writes Nagib Nassar, professor emeritus at the University of Brasilia, in an exclusive article for GMWatch
In an article published in the Journal of Science (Brazil), I alerted the scientific and environmental community to the risks posed by the approval this month of GMO eucalyptus by the Brazilian National Commission of Biosafety (CTNBio).
The GMO eucalyptus has been engineered with a gene that accelerates growth, and another gene that confers resistance to antibiotics.
Eucalyptus is pollinated by bees, the manufacturers of honey that is consumed by millions of people and a source of income for small farmers. Eucalyptus is the main source of pollen for bees and honey contains more than 1% eucalyptus pollen. There is a danger that the gene could be transferred to the gut bacteria of human consumers of honey and that they could acquire resistance to antibiotics.
In addition to pollinating eucalyptus, bees also pollinate other important crops for human consumption in Brazil, such as citrus fruit. It is possible that bees contaminated with antibiotic resistance genes from the GMO eucalyptus could potentially transfer antibiotic resistance to the human consumers of these other crops.
Thus the contamination of bees with antibiotic resistance genes could affect the domestic production of all crops that depend on bees for fertilization and fruit setting.
On every occasion, including at the public hearing organized by the Brazilian GMO regulator CTNBio, the company that developed this GMO failed to explain and prove its safety for bees. The MDA (Ministry of Agrarian Development) documented this failure at the public hearing.
The threat posed by the GMO eucalyptus extends to the water security of the country. Due to its rapid growth, it reduces the cropping cycle to 4 years instead of 6 years. That means it will extract more water from reserves and may aggravate the water shortage crisis faced in different regions.
Economically, the country may suffer because the production and export of honey in Brazil is derived mainly from eucalyptus cultivation. Honey is produced by thousands of small farmers and it is their main source of income. There are about 350,000 producers of honey and 80% of production is organic. With the inevitable contamination of honey with GMO eucalyptus pollen, exports of organic honey will be undermined by the rejection of the international market.
Once cultivation occurs on a large scale, the GMO eucalyptus will inevitably contaminate other non-GMO eucalyptus cultivars through cross-pollination by bees. Therefore, we will face once again similar GMO contamination problems that we have already experienced with indigenous corn and native cotton varieties.
Journal of Science article (Portuguese):
Online journal edited by Nagib Nassar: http://www.geneconserve.pro.br
Campaign to Stop GE Trees: http://stopgetrees.org/about/