Public Overwhelmingly Rejects Genetically Engineered Trees

For Immediate Release

Global Justice Ecology Project
Contact: 

Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project, +1.802.482.2689/ mobile: +1.802.578.0477
Scot Quaranda, Dogwood Alliance, +1.828.242.3596

Public Overwhelmingly Rejects Genetically Engineered Trees

HINESBURG, Vermont - Nearly
17,500 public comments were sent to the US Department of Agriculture
opposing their recommendation for approval of an ArborGen [1] proposal
to plant over a quarter of a million genetically engineered (GE)
eucalyptus trees.  Only 39 favorable comments were received by the
USDA. If allowed, the plantings would take place on 330 acres of land
across seven states in the Southern U.S., to supposedly feed future
cellulosic ethanol production.

All but one of the field trials would be allowed to flower and produce
seeds. The trees are genetically engineered to be cold tolerant,
produce less lignin and have altered fertility. When the USDA issued
their draft Environmental Assessment (EA) in early May in favor of
ArborGen's proposal, the STOP GE Trees Campaign [2] mobilized.

The collection of comments from people firmly opposing the large-scale
release of GE eucalyptus trees was a combined effort of several
different organizations that recognize the inherent danger in this
industry proposal.  Eucalyptus trees are known to be wildly invasive,
extremely flammable and deplete huge quantities of ground water.  They
are also not native to North America.  In many cases they have
exacerbated drought conditions, which can set the stage for devastating
wildfires.  In a massive Australian eucalyptus wildfire earlier this
year,173 people perished.

"Releasing a quarter of a million genetically modified trees that are
allowed to both flower and produce seeds is irresponsible and
dangerous," stated George Kimbrell, Staff Attorney for the Center for Food Safety
"USDA failed to analyze rigorously the foreseeable impacts of this
unprecedented experiment on native environments, which could have
devastating consequences," he concluded.

"The Organic Consumer's Association
strongly opposes the release of any and all GMO trees into the
environment," stated Craig Minowa, Environmental Scientist at the OCA. 
"Some of the projected social and environmental impacts from the
release of GMO trees commercially include the increased use of toxic
herbicides and pesticides and the contamination of native forests with
GMO trees engineered for such traits as reduced lignin, insect
resistance, or faster growth which would be devastating to forest
ecosystems," he added.

With offices in the U.S., Brazil and New Zealand, ArborGen is shipping
GE tree tissue from location to location.  According to the draft USDA
Environmental Assessment, the GE tree hybrid used to create the 260,000
GE tree clones to be planted in the U.S. originated in Brazil, where
non-GMO eucalyptus plantations have long been causing massive social
and ecological problems.  The GE tree tissue was then sent to New
Zealand where it was genetically engineered and then shipped to the
U.S. for cloning and outdoor release. [3]

"Here in New Zealand ArborGen has been prevented from doing field
trials of their GE trees because it is recognized that the risks
associated with these field trials are simply too great," stated
Co-chair and spokesperson Steffan Browning of the Soil & Health Association of New Zealand
"GE trees are prohibited from field trials in New Zealand, so ArborGen
will export them to the USA or anywhere else they can get away with
it.  This scandal brings shame to New Zealand's clean, green GMO-free
reputation," he added.

The USDA will be making a final decision soon.  For updates on the current status of the application visit: http://nogetrees.org

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