PLANTS: Effort launched to stop GE eucalyptus plantations in USSoutheast
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------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE: Effort launched to stop GE eucalyptus plantations in US Southeast
SOURCE: Stop GE Trees Campaign, USA
AUTHOR: Press Release
Effort launched to stop GE eucalyptus plantations in US Southeast
As the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) wraps up its annual
convention in Boston, the STOP GE Trees Campaign and member groups from
around the U.S., including Dogwood Alliance, WildLaw, Southern Forests
Network, Sierra Club and Global Justice Ecology Project are uniting to
stop the plans of GE tree giant ArborGen to release genetically
engineered eucalyptus trees in the southeast U.S.
ArborGen, which was a co-sponsor of the BIO convention, is laying the
groundwork for massive plantations of non-native eucalyptus trees
genetically engineered to be cold tolerant for biofuels and paper pulp.
In addition to the cold tolerance trait, these eucalyptus have been
engineered for other traits which ArborGen refuses to reveal. News
articles and reports indicate these traits likely include reduced lignin
content and the ability to kill insects.
The first goal of this effort is to stop the USDA's approval of
ArborGen's GE eucalyptus field trials in Alabama. "ArborGen wants
approval from the USDA to allow their genetically engineered eucalyptus
trees to flower and produce seeds," stated Dr. Neil Carman of the Sierra
Club and the STOP GE Trees Campaign. "There has been no consideration as
to what happens if these seeds escape into native ecosystems. This is an
area heavily impacted by severe storms, including tornadoes and
hurricanes--seeds from these trees could travel for hundreds of miles, "
ArborGen petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Animal and Plant
Health Inspection Service or APHIS) in 2006 for permission to extend
their GE Eucalyptus field trials to allow flowering and seed production
in 355 GE Eucalyptus hybrid trees grown on 1.1 acres in Baldwin County,
Alabama close to the Gulf Coast of Mexico. APHIS is currently accepting
comments on their Environmental Assessment (EA) in which they recommend
approval for these field trials.
"Approval of this field trial represents the first time that a GE tree
would be allowed to produce flowers and seeds on the U.S. mainland,"
stated Orin Langelle, Coordinator of the STOP GE Tree Campaign. "Once
this GE tree flowering and seed production is allowed, it will be easier
for APHIS to approve outdoor field trial releases of other GE trees,
such as poplars and pines for flowering and seed production. This could
spell disaster for our native forests," he concluded.
The STOP GE Trees Campaign is demanding that APHIS reject this permit
and order ArborGen to destroy the existing field trials. Other groups
want APHIS to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that
comprehensively addresses all relevant issues related to the proposed GE
Eucalyptus field trials.
Eucalyptus species are not native to the U.S. but grow well in certain
warm climates such as the southern and southeast U.S. regions. Escape of
GE Eucalyptus trees through seeds and vegetative plant material are
quite likely due to severe wind and rain events that are common to
Baldwin County, Alabama where the field trials are located. In other
countries where eucalyptus have been introduced, they are well known for
escaping and colonizing native ecosystems.
"The federal courts have been clear. In their recent decisions on
genetically engineered perennial plants including GE bentgrass and GE
alfalfa, they concluded that the USDA has inadequately assessed the
risks of these species escaping into native ecosystems," insisted Ray
Vaughan of WildLaw, an Alabama organization that has monitored the
development of genetically engineered trees. "The escape of non-native,
potentially invasive, genetically engineered trees into the forests of
the Southeast could be devastating to our ecosystems and our timber industry."
Global warming and climate change will allow more extensive southern and
southeast regions of the U.S. to have weather patterns conducive to the
introduction and propagation of escaped GE Eucalyptus hybrids.
In regions where droughts occur, eucalyptus are known to be at high risk
of catching fire. The southeast U.S. is currently in the midst of such a
drought. Additionally, eucalyptus plantations have been documented to
deplete ground water and cause or exacerbate drought situations. None of
these potential impacts were evaluated in the EA.
APHIS is accepting comments on ArborGen's proposal until May 21.
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