liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

Invasive Species Watch: Genetically Modified Eucalyptus

If you care about the ecysostems of this continent, you have an interest in preventing the planting and genetic dispersal of foreign or genetically modified species. We have already heard about Monsanto's genetically engineered soybeans and corn, and how the pollen has spread to other fields, perpetuating the infertility of crops engineered for profit, not for life. Now another corporation (Arborgen) plans to plant genetically modified eucalyptus in eight states in the south.

Unfortunately the USDA just waved them right in, without looking into the environmental consequences. The media ignored it too. But we care about our forests! We care about the ecology of our continent! The last thing we need is a new species of trees taking over the forests of the south. Eucalyptus has its uses, but it is very hard to contain. It burns hot, and hosts different fungi and other pests that would not be welcome. It is also a very thirsty plant, lowering the water table where it lives.

The eucalyptus that Arborgen wants to introduce has been genetically modified to contain more cellulose for the purpose of making ethanol. We already know that ethanol manufacture has been the rationale for massive subsidies for corporate corn growers. Far as I can tell, everything about the ethanol production industry smacks of corruption. We need to stop corporations from ruining our continent and forests! They will make their profit, and leave us with the waste.

Here's the citizen group working to stop the invasion:
Here's the page where you can send your letter:

Here's Jim Hightower's rant about it:

Thursday, August 6, 2009 | Posted by Jim Hightower

Here’s a great idea: Let's bring into our country a genetically-engineered, non-native tree that is known to be wildly invasive, explosively flammable, and insatiably thirsty for ground water. Then let's clone thousands of these living firecrackers and plant them in forested regions across seven Southern states, allowing them to grow, flower, produce seeds, and spread into native environments.

Yes, this would be irresponsible, dangerous, and stupid – but apparently "Irresponsible, Dangerous, and Stupid" is the unofficial slogan of the U.S. Department Agriculture. In May, with little consideration of the devastating consequences for our native environment, USDA cavalierly rubberstamped a proposal by a profiteering corporation named ArborGen to do all of the above.

Substantially owned by International Paper, ArborGen shipped tissue from Brazilian eucalyptus trees to its New Zealand laboratories, where it was genetically altered to have more cellulose. New Zealand, however, outlaws plantings of genetically-engineered crops, so ArborGen sought out a more corporate-compliant country: Ours. The engineered eucalyptus was waved right into the good ol' USA to be cloned, and it’s now awaiting final approval for outdoor release in our land.

This has happened with practically no media coverage or public participation. It is happening solely because a handful of global speculators hope to profit by making ethanol from cellulose-enhanced eucalyptus – never mind that their self-aggrandizement would put America's native forests in danger of irreversible contamination by these destructive, invasive Frankentrees.

Luckily, several scrappy grassroots groups have mobilized to bring common sense and public pressure to bear on USDA. For updates and action items, visit

"Public Overwhelmingly Rejects Genetically Engineered Trees," Stop GE Trees Campaign, July 16, 2009.


Here's the letter:


To Whom It May Concern,

I oppose allowing ArborGen to plant over a quarter of a million GE eucalyptus in 29 field trials over 330 acres for the following reasons:

Approval of these field trials represents precedent setting approval for the large-scale outdoor release of GE Eucalyptus trees that allow flowering and seed formation in young trees. If GE tree flowering and seed production is allowed on the U.S. mainland on this large a scale, it will facilitate the approval of commercial large-scale release of GE eucalyptus or other trees. It will also facilitate the approval of other GE tree flowering field trials of native species like pine and poplar that could contaminate native forests.

APHIS failed to conduct and prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to comprehensively address all relevant issues related to the proposed GE Eucalyptus field trials.

Eucalyptus species are introduced organisms in the U.S. and grow well in certain warm climates such as in parts of California and Florida. The cold tolerance trait, if it is expressed as ArborGen intends, will vastly expand the range of this GE eucalyptus hybrid.

Escape of GE cold tolerant eucalyptus hybrids through seeds and vegetative plant material are quite likely due to severe wind and rain events which APHIS failed to assess in the EA. In other countries where eucalyptus have been introduced, they are well known for escaping and colonizing native ecosystems.

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. These concerns were not adequately addressed in the EA.

The U.S. Forest Service has stated that eucalyptus plantations lower water tables, and affect groundwater recharge and local stream flows, in some cases eliminating seasonal streams. Since the approval of 330 acres of field trials appears poised to facilitate deregulation of these Eucalyptus hybrids, much more extensive study of groundwater impacts is essential, especially in light of existing drought conditions in parts of the South.

In regions where droughts occur, eucalyptus are known to be at high risk of catching fire. Wildfires in eucalyptus groves in Australia this year, which were worsened by a drought, killed 173 people. Some regions of the Southern U.S. are currently in the midst of such a drought. Additionally, eucalyptus trees, with deep tap roots, use very large quantities of water. They have been documented to severely deplete ground water and cause or exacerbate drought situations. These concerns were not adequately addressed in the EA.

With recent federal court decisions on genetically engineered perennial organisms like the GE bentgrass and GE alfalfa, for example, there is a growing legal foundation around the potential escape of perennial GE organisms even in field trials.

The fatal fungal pathogen, Crytococcus Gattii has been found in the U.S. It can cause fatal fungal meningitis among people and animals that inhale its spores. One of the eucalyptus species used in the GE eucalyptus hybrids (E. grandis) is a known host for cryptococcus gattii. Creating extensive habitat for this fatal fungal pathogen is dangerous and foolhardy. These concerns were not adequately addressed in the EA.

I believe the GE eucalyptus field trials should be ended and the trees destroyed before it is too late.

Tags: america, corporations, corruption, ecology, invasive species, the south

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