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For Immediate Release
Joint Release from Global Forest Coalition, Global Justice Ecology Project and the STOP GE Trees Campaign
Field Trial of Dangerous Genetically Engineered Trees Begins in Belgium
GE Poplars Risk Contaminating European Forests with Climate-Destructive Traits
Amsterdam, The Netherlands--Organizations internationally are condemning the planting of a highly controversial field trial of GE poplar trees on 6 May by The Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB). The poplars, planted in the Belgian countryside, have been genetically engineered for altered lignin content specifically for the production of agrofuels (industrial-scale biofuels). 
"Genetically engineered low-lignin poplar trees are a disaster waiting to happen," stated Dr. Miguel Lovera in Paraguay, chairperson of the Netherlands-based Global Forest Coalition. "Poplars include thirty species that grow in a range of climates from subalpine in Northern Europe and Canada to subtropical areas in the south. They can spread their pollen and seeds for up to hundreds of kilometers. They can even spread asexually, through vegetative propagation, and can re-sprout from the stump if cut down. Contamination of native poplars in The Netherlands and throughout Europe would be both inevitable and irreversible if GE low-lignin poplar plantations are developed," he added.
"Agrofuels made from food crops have been widely condemned due to their impacts on the global food supply," added Nina Holland, of the Belgium-based Corporate Europe Observatory. "However, manufacturing agrofuels from non-food crops like GE trees is not the answer. Non-food agrofuels will still monopolize land to grow the feedstocks--displacing agriculture and lopping down forests to free up the massive amount of land needed to produce the necessary quantities of fuel. We have to reduce fuel consumption. There is simply no way to sustainably replace the huge amount of transport fuel we currently use in Europe," she continued.
The role of healthy forests in mitigating climate change cannot be underestimated. The escape of low-lignin GE poplar pollen and seeds into forests could cause devastating impacts including increased forest mortality since lignin is largely responsible for insect and disease resistance in trees. Additionally, studies have found that low-lignin GE poplars store 30% less plant carbon as well as 70% less carbon in the soil.  They also rot much more quickly, rapidly releasing their carbon into the atmosphere. This combination of destructive impacts indicates that GE poplars are yet another false solution and cannot be part of the fight against global warming.
"It is patently absurd to state that GE low-lignin poplars developed to produce agrofuels can be part of the solution to climate change," argued Anne Petermann, Executive Director of the U.S.-based Global Justice Ecology Project and Coordinator of the international STOP GE Trees Campaign. "Not only are GE trees themselves destructive to the climate, the entire notion of using wood to manufacture liquid fuels is ludicrous. As we point out in the report, 'GE Trees, Cellulosic Biofuels and Destruction of Forest Biological Diversity', we need to be stopping the tremendous carbon emissions caused by deforestation, not creating a massive new demand for wood.
Dr. Miguel Lovera, Global Forest Coalition, +595-21-663654 (Office in Paraguay) +257 20993704 (mobile) Dutch, French, Spanish and English
Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory, +32 -(0) 2 89 30 930 (office), +32 -(0) 497 389 632 (mobile) Dutch and English
Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project, +1-802-482-2689 (office), +1-802-578-0477 (mobile) English
 In May 2008 VIB's field trial permit was rejected by the Belgian Ministers for Public Health as well as Climate and Energy. After VIB fought the decision, it was suspended in December 2008 by the Belgian Council of State and in February 2009, it was announced that the field trial would be allowed.
 "Unregulated Release of GM Poplars and Hybrids", a report submitted to the USDA APHIS in response to a permit application from Oregon State University for field tests of low-lignin GE poplars, August 2007.
 The STOP GE Trees Campaign includes 136 organizations from 45 countries who have joined together to demand a global ban on the release of GE trees into the environment. The Southern Hemisphere Coordination point of the STOP GE Trees Campaign, World Rainforest Movement, has created an inventory of GE tree research and development around the world.