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On Wed, 7/1/09, Center for Food Safety

office@centerforfoodsafety.org

The biotechnology firm ArborGen has asked the USDA for permission to conduct 29 field trials of genetically engineered “cold tolerant” eucalyptus trees in the U.S. For the first time in history, this massive experiment, which is on the verge of being green-lighted, will literally be using nature as the laboratory to test more than 260,000 genetically engineered trees. Scientists across the U.S. are voicing concerns over this proposal.

As it did with GE alfalfa, USDA failed to conduct and prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to comprehensively address all the relevant issues related to the proposed eucalyptus field trials. Scientists at Duke University in North Carolina have created pollen models that show tree pollen traveling from a forest in North Carolina for over 1,000 kilometers northward into eastern Canada. A study published in the New Physiologist found pine pollen 600 kilometers from the nearest pines. Scientists researching sterility in trees have admitted that 100 percent guaranteed sterility in GE trees is impossible. This evidence implies that if GE trees are released into the environment, widespread and irreversible contamination of native forests cannot be prevented.

Contamination of natural trees by GE eucalyptus could pose a severe environmental threat. Eucalyptus grow well in warm climates, so engineering them to tolerate cold temperatures removes the only barrier to their unrestricted spread. In some places where eucalyptus have been introduced, they are well known for escaping and colonizing native ecosystems. For example, eucalyptus is listed as an invasive species and a costly plant pest in California. The spread of these plants into the wild through seeds and plant matter is highly likely, and the impacts on native ecosystems from this invader are largely unknown. Additionally, one of the experimental GE tree varieties is a known host for cryptococcus gatti, a fatal fungal pathogen whose spores cause meningitis in people and animals.

Despite recent federal court decisions that USDA failed to address the risk of contamination and other environmental risks from genetically engineered plants, like GE bentgrass and alfalfa, USDA seems poised to push ahead with this dangerous proposal.

A public comment period is open until July 6th, 2009 – please send your comment to USDA APHIS opposing this risky proposal today!

Send a letter to the following decision maker(s):
Docket No. APHIS-2008-0059

Below is the sample letter:

Subject: Oppose Docket No. APHIS-2008-0059

Dear [decision maker name automatically inserted here],

Docket No. APHIS-2008-0059
Regulatory Analysis and Development
PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8
4700 River Road, Unit 118
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238

Re: USDA/ APHIS Docket No. APHIS-2008-0059

I am strongly opposed to ArborGen’s proposal to conduct 29 field trials of experimental genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in the U.S. (APHIS-2008-0059) for the following reasons:

As it did with GE alfalfa, USDA failed to conduct and prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to comprehensively address all the relevant issues related to the proposed eucalyptus field trials.

Eucalyptus species are introduced organisms into the US and grow well in certain warm climates such as the southern and southeast US regions. The main barrier to Eucalyptus becoming established in this region is that the varieties planted often die in cold temperatures. Genetically engineering them to tolerate those cold temperatures removes that barrier. In other regions, where eucalyptus have been introduced, they are well known for escaping and colonizing native ecosystems. Eucalyptus has become so established in California that it is now listed as an invasive species and a plant pest in the state.

Scientists at Duke University in North Carolina have created pollen models that show tree pollen traveling from a forest in North Carolina for over 1,000 kil ometers northward into eastern Canada. A study published in the New Physiologist found pine pollen 600 kilometers from the nearest pines. Scientists researching sterility in trees have admitted that 100 percent guaranteed sterility in GE trees is impossible. This evidence implies that if GE trees are released into the environment, widespread and irreversible contamination of native forests cannot be prevented.

Contamination of natural trees by GE eucalyptus could pose a severe environmental threat. The spread of these plants into the wild through seeds and plant matter is highly likely, and the impacts on native ecosystems from this invader are largely unknown. Additionally, one of the experimental GE tree varieties is a known host for cryptococcus gatti, a fatal fungal pathogen whose spores cause meningitis in people and animals.

By the agency’s own admission, there are several varieties of eucalyptus that are naturally cold-tolerant, at least eight of which could be grown in Southern U.S. states like Alabama. This field trial is not only risky, it is completely unnecessary.

Please deny this request, and require the implementation of a full Environmental Impact Statement.

Sincerely,

Debbie Coffey

 
 

 

 

 

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What’s At Stake:

For more information on genetically trees, links to reports, and more, visit the Stop GE Trees Coalition website, a project of the Global Justice Ecology Project

 

Campaign Expiration Date:
July 7, 2009

 

 
   

 

 


 

 

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