Government Set to Approve Planting of a Quarter Million Genetically Engineered Eucalyptus Trees in US South

For Immediate Release

Global Justice Ecology Project
Contact: 

Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project, +1-802-482-2689 office/+1-802-578-6980 mobile
Dr. Neil Carman, Sierra Club, +1-512-472-1767 office
Brian Tokar, Institute for Social Ecology, +1-802-229-0087

Government Set to Approve Planting of a Quarter Million Genetically Engineered Eucalyptus Trees in US South

HINESBURG, Vermont - The U.S. government is set to approve [1] a request from ArborGen, the
genetically engineered (GE) tree research and development
giant, for permission to plant 260,000 GE cold tolerant eucalyptus
trees in 29 "field trials" across seven southern U.S. states.  
Approval
of such a large-scale planting of these dangerous flowering GE forest
trees in the U.S. is completely unprecedented.  The GE eucalyptus, to
be
planted in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and
South Carolina, would be allowed to flower and produce seeds, enabling
them
to
potentially escape into native ecosystems and forests.

The STOP GE Trees Campaign,
an international alliance of organizations that
has banded together with the goal of globally banning the open-air
release of genetically engineered trees, this week issued an "Urgent Action Alert"
about ArborGen's
potentially disastrous plans, with information about how the public can
make comments to the government to help stop this large-scale release
of GE
trees.

"This is absolutely unprecedented--the government wants to approve the
mass release of 260,000 flowering GE forest trees in so-called "field
trials,"
stated Dr. Neil Carman who works with the Sierra Club
in Texas.  "You
cannot call over a quarter of a million trees over 330 acres "field
trials."  These are experimental forests being planted outdoors under
the
disguise of "field trials" as a loophole.  The government must produce
an Environmental Impact Statement to carefully review all of the
potential
environmental threats from this large-scale GE tree release," Dr.
Carman continued.

Eucalyptus are internationally known for their devastating
impacts--from invasiveness to wildfires to their ability to worsen
droughts.  Massive
wildfires in Australia earlier this year were fueled by eucalyptus,
which contains a highly volatile oil.  These wildfires moved at 100
km/hr
and
killed 173 people, who literally did not have time to escape. 
Additionally, eucalyptus grandis, one of the species in the GE
eucalyptus hybrid,
is also a known host to Cryptococcus gattii, a fungus that can cause
fatal fungal meningitis in people and animals that inhale its spores. 
C.
gattii was recently found in the U.S. [2]

"In Brazil, eucalyptus plantations are known as 'green deserts' because
they do not allow anything else to live," stated Camila Moreno, an
attorney
and Global Justice Ecology Project
staff consultant in Brazil. 
"No understory plants, no wildlife, no communities--only eucalyptus
trees can survive there.  They are a disaster for Brazil, which is why
there
exists a large social movement against eucalyptus in Brazil and many
hectares of plantations have been destroyed by communities," Moreno
continued.

"ArborGen and their corporate owners, International Paper, Mead
Westvaco and Rubicon [3] could not be more irresponsible.  The
large-scale
planting of these GE eucalyptus would spell disaster," added Danna
Smith, Executive Director of the North Carolina based Dogwood Alliance
"Already millions of acres of land in the South
have been converted to pine plantations.  We cannot afford to lose any
more of the precious native forests of the South--and especially not to
eucalyptus plantations, which could make kudzu [4] look tame by
comparison," she continued.

Public comments on the government's plans to approve the planting of 260,000 GE eucalyptus trees are being accepted
until 6 July 2009 at 5 pm eastern U.S. time.   Also as a Public Service, the STOP GE Trees Campaign has created a sign-on Comment Letter demanding rejection of ArborGen's request to which members of the public can add their name. That Comment
Letter with signatures will be submitted to the government.

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