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The GE Tree Company ArborGen has been given permission by the USDA to plant huge plantations of genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees across seven states in the southern U.S. — Texas, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina. These states are very well-suited for eucalyptus culture, and varieties of eucalyptus have naturalized in other areas of the United States. Eucalyptus are also used extensively as ornamentals across the warmer parts of the States, creating many opportunities for genetic contamination.

ArborGen is also requesting that trees be allowed to flower at four locations in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, and to be kept in pots (but not allowed to flower) in two locations in South Carolina.

The GE eucalyptus trees have been engineered for more cold tolerance, to alter flowering patterns, and with resistance to the antibiotic kanamycin.

The Global Justice Ecology Project is trying to stop the introduction of these and other GE trees into our landscapes.

For more detailed information about the dangers of GE Eucalyptus read their action alert (PDF).

How you can help

Once introduced into our environment, genetically engineered trees will be very, very hard to stop. Please take action and show the USDA that we don’t want our forests and landscapes tampered with genetically!

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8 Responses to “GE Eucalyptus Trees Approved by the USDA”

  1. Anne Petermann

    HI folks–thanks for helping us publicize this. Just to clarify, the USDA has not given permission to ArborGen to commercially sell GE eucalyptus trees (or any GE trees for that matter). In 2010, they approved a large field trial of 330 acres over 7 states. They just recently approved an expansion of these flowering field trials–which is what the USDA comment period is about. Ultimately, ArborGen hopes to be allowed to sell these GE eucalyptus trees commercially. If given permission, they plan to sell half a billion GE eucalyptus trees per year just in the US. That is why we are petitioning the USDA to ban ALL GE trees. We are also petitioning the UN for a global ban on all GE trees.

    Thank you for promoting our petition and our efforts to STOP GE trees!

    Anne Petermann

    Reply
  2. Green

    Eucalyptus trees are not the trees that native birds need the most and they should not be helped to take over the forest that they are not from.

    Reply
  3. Land of Oz

    Eucalyptus (gum) trees should not have been allowed outside Australia (and territories and including parts of Indonesia (Lombok)) for the sake of creating unbalanced ecology… unfortunately they are also in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.. Its not only the destruction of forests and climate change a concern, but the eradication of native flora/fauna and the infiltration of species that are not native to those continents changes the entire scope and balance of the worlds ecology and thus extinction of fauna/flora species from blatant ignorance and arrogance, two traits Humans can not seem to eradicate themselves..

    Reply
  4. Charlie

    I am going to play the devil’s advocate. Please don’t excommunicate me.

    I want to address the unquestioned and universal assumption that genetic engineering is witchcraft. Now, there are many valid arguments against the use of genetically engineered plants. Obviously, monocultural, industrial agriculture with genetically engineered crops is very unsustainable. And there is danger of genetically engineered traits being passed to wild populations. And all genetically engineered crops may not be safe to eat (although it is certainly not true that all genetically engineered crops are unsafe). These are all important concerns and the wisest decision may be to not grow genetically engineered plants in circumstances where they apply.

    But genetic engineering is not witchcraft. In freshman biology lab I and my classmates isolated a DNA sequence from various plants, inserted it into a bacterial plasmid, and cultivated the bacteria in order to sequence the gene. Let me assure you, no pacts with the devil were made.

    And about these GE eucalyptus. Based solely on the information here, I am not convinced that I should disapprove of AborGen’s project. I don’t think I have a problem with genetically engineered cold tolerance. I may have a problem with the resistance to kanamycin, but I’m not sure (wikipedia tells me that kanamycin is used against infection and to isolate bacteria in research; I am confused as to why this would be desirable in the tree). And it seems that ArborGen even took a precaution against “genetic contamination” by “alter[ing] flowering patterns.” I can think of some scenarios where genetically engineered plants would be a good (perhaps not the best) solution.

    I’m definitely not convinced we need a “global ban on all GE trees.”

    I don’t mean to go into arguments for and against the use of genetic engineering. My main point is this: if we are to be anti-GM (and I may be myself), then we must have rational reasons. If we despise GM because we have been conditioned to have a negative emotional response to evil, unnatural “frankenfoods,” then we lose credibility. We can’t be anti-science.

    There is no witchcraft.

    Reply
  5. DeepGreenGreenie

    It would seem that these trees are sterile!!!!!

    Quote –

    The barnase gene has been engineered into other crops that have been previously reviewed and addressed in multiple environmental assessments by APHIS. Male sterile corn (USDA APHIS petitions for deregulation 95-288-01p, 97-342-01p and 98-349-01p), rapeseed (petitions 98-278-01p and 01-206-01p) and chicory (petition 97-148-01p) have been reviewed by APHIS and are no longer subject to the plant pest provisions of the Plant Protection Act and 7 CFR part 340. There is no reason to believe that the function and expression of this gene will be any different from the plants in which it has been previously assessed. There were no toxicity or allergenicity issues found with this gene in previous FDA reviews (See BNF Nos. 31, 32, 45, 57 and 66 at: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/biocon.html).). The presence of this gene is likely to reduce the ability of the trees to produce progeny and thus further reduce the likelihood of the release of the regulated article into the environment. In greenhouse tests using tobacco and an early flowering model Eucalyptus (E. occidentalis), the applicant has found that the barnase gene has demonstrated 100% efficacy in preventing pollen formation. In developing flower buds from field grown transgenic Eucalyptus lines containing this cassette, 90% of lines showed complete pollen ablation. Recent observations from the replicated field study conducted in Alabama under permit 06-325-111r (renewed as 10-112-101r) and Florida under permit 08-151-101r (now covered under 08-014-101rm) confirmed that cold tolerant translines grown in these field test did not produce any pollen.

    -Unquote

    Source: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/aphisdocs/11_052101rm_pea.pdf

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  6. Chris McLeod

    Hi all,

    Eucalypts are not necessarily a bad species. They grow in areas where other trees won’t and as such are quite valuable as they are very undemanding. However, they hybridise readily and will adapt to a new location in only a couple of generations. They are not particularly hard to remove, it’s just a lot of hard work. I’m unsure why they would bother producing GE eucalypts anyway because there are plenty of species that will tolerate cold weather and/or freezing conditions.

    Regards. Chris

    Reply
  7. David Mattinson

    Scientists are looking at expanding the eucalypts natural growing zones to push this rapid growing tree into colder climates of America. It looks all roses now, but I think we need to take precaution with any new genes in an open environment, to see how it interacts with local soil biology, as we have seen how Bt engineered plants have faired.
    The laboritories of ArborGen in New Zealand, who developed this tree, are also working on a low lignin Eucalypt for biomass energy generation. The low lignin wood is easier to develop into energy but comes with risks spreading the trait through natural forests and potentially become a serious risk in storms. What trials in NZ have shown, that even though it is not supposed to reproduce, some trees have done so.
    This cold tolerant species could be a test to see if they can introduce a patented tree into America.

    Reply

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