Stop genetically engineered trees!

Tree plantation in South Africa This is a green desert, not a forest. (© Rettet den Regenwald/Mathias Rittgerott)

ArborGen, a U.S.-based biotech lab, is seeking USDA approval for its freeze-resistant GE eucalyptus. If the company is successful, GE trees would open the planet’s temperate zones to the same practices that are devastating the rainforests — replacing natural forests with plantations that, by design, eliminate biodiversity.

Call to action

To: the President of the United States Donald J. Trump, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Genetically modified eucalyptus trees pose a threat to the environment, the climate and humans. They must not be approved in the United States or anywhere else.

Read letter

Many of the forest fires that raged in Chile in January had started in parched tree plantations. 280,000 hectares of land were devastated and 1,500 homes destroyed.

For decades, the operators of pine and eucalyptus plantations have been destroying natural forests and displacing their indigenous inhabitants like Chile’s Mapuche people. Chile's experience is a warning to us:

- The extremely high water consumption of eucalyptus trees contributes to water shortages and forest fires. The plantations use vast amounts of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

- Eucalyptus is an invasive species that causes lasting damage to natural forest ecosystems.

- Monocultures are green deserts that do not offer wild animals a habitat.

- Plantations often destroy the land and livelihoods of indigenous people.

In the past, the spread of eucalyptus plantations was limited by their inability to survive freezing temperatures. Genetic engineering has now made the species hardy enough to thrive in places that were previously too cold. Those regions can now expect the same negative social and environmental outcomes we have seen in Chile.

“The approval of ArborGen’s freeze-resistant eucalyptus would endanger forests in the United States and worldwide,” warns Anne Petermann of the Global Justice Ecology Project.

Fast-growing eucalyptus is in great demand, partly due to the myth that wood pellets are a “green” fuel – thanks to the EU’s misguided climate policy that promotes the burning of biomass.

The United States Department of Agriculture is accepting public comments on ArborGen’s application until the 5th of July. “We want to collect 500,000 signatures to prevent the approval,” says Anne Petermann.

Please sign our petition and support the fight against genetically engineered trees.

Back­ground

In genetic engineering, scientists manipulate the genetic material of a tree by inserting DNA from an unrelated species in order to achieve certain properties:

- making the trees freeze-resistant

- changing the wood structure to make it more suitable for the production of paper, pulp or biomass

- improving the trees’ resistance to pests and diseases

Genetically modifying trees is a very new field. Consequently, no one can predict the long-term effects of the manipulations, especially considering that trees live for decades or centuries.

For more information, please visit:

https://stopgetrees.org/ge-trees/

https://act.credoaction.com/sign/no_GEo_trees?t=2&akid=22957.12945209.aJmdfK

Leave your comments to the USDA regarding ArborGen’s application here:

https://www.regulations.gov/docketBrowser?rpp=25&so=DESC&sb=postedDate&po=0&D=APHIS-2012-0030

Global Justice Ecology Project:

http://globaljusticeecology.org/

http://globaljusticeecology.org/pressroom/ge-trees-in-2016-press-package/

http://globaljusticeecology.org/will-donald-trump-impact-future-of-genetically-engineered-trees/

Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales – OLCA:

http://www.olca.cl/oca/index.htm

http://olca.cl/articulo/nota.php?id=106752

http://blog.cifor.org/34622/growth-in-chiles-plantations-may-have-spelled-growth-in-poverty?fnl=en

About ArborGen:

https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/biotechnology/permits-notifications-petitions/petitions/petition-status

https://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/aphisdocs/11_01901p_peis.pdf

https://www.google.ch/patents/US20120266339

https://ag.tennessee.edu/woodycrops/Documents/ConferenceReports/9thBiennial/5JeffWright.pdf

Letter

To: the President of the United States Donald J. Trump, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Dear Mr. President,
Dear Secretary Perdue,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

ArborGen, a South Carolina-based biotech lab, has submitted a petition for approval of its genetically modified, freeze-resistant eucalyptus trees. If the U.S. Department of Agriculture were to approve the ArborGen petition, it would set a precedent, opening the floodgates for eucalyptus plantations in regions too cold for non-GE trees, including the southern United States. This development poses a serious threat to forests, and existing tree monocultures have proven to be an environmental and social disaster.

As citizens of the world, we want to point out the devastating environmental and social impacts of eucalyptus plantations already being observed in countries such as South Africa and Chile:

- Forests are highly complex ecosystems. Eucalyptus is an invasive species that can damage them beyond repair. Furthermore, it is virtually impossible to predict the ultimate impact of genetically modified eucalyptus.

- The trend toward clearing native, biodiverse forests and replacing them with eucalyptus monocultures that are completely unsuited as wildlife habitats is a grave threat to rare and endangered species.

- Eucalyptus plantations endanger the soil and water. They require large quantities of toxic agrochemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Their water consumption takes a serious toll on groundwater.

- Eucalyptus trees are highly flammable, particularly during dry periods and droughts.

- Clearing forests and replacing them with plantations is a major source of carbon emissions, as plantations sequester less carbon than natural forests.

The approval of ArborGen’s eucalyptus variety would open the door for other genetically modified tree species such as poplars and pines, with global consequences.

Please consider these comments and concerns from citizens around the world when making your decision. The United States must not approve ArborGen’s genetically engineered, freeze-resistant eucalyptus varieties (FTE 427 and FTE 435) or other GE trees.

Yours faithfully,

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