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PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2009 8:19 pm 
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The USDA is currently taking public comments on whether or not the company ArborGen should be allowed 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 franken-trees. Scientists across the U.S. are voicing concerns over this proposal including:

-The USDA failed to do an Environmental Impact Statement to assess potential negative issues related to the proposed field trials.

-Studies have shown tree pollen can travel up to 1,000 kilometers. The spread of the these plants into the wild through seeds and plant matter is highly likely, and the impacts on native ecosystems from this invader are unknown.

-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.

Comments are being accepted by the USDA until July 6, 2009. Take action today by using the form at the bottom of this page or going directly to the USDA website to submit comments

Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/c ... -2008-0059 to submit or view comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically. (Docket ID is APHIS-2008-0059)

* Postal Mail/Commercial delivery: Please send two copies of your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2008-0059, Regualtory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your comment refers to Docket No. APHIS-2008-0059.


The Organic Consumers Association is sending this letter:

I am strongly opposed to ArborGen's proposal to conduct 29 field trials of experimental genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in the U.S. for the following reasons:

-The USDA failed to do an Environmental Impact Statement to assess potential negative issues related to the proposed 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.

-The spread of the these plants into the wild through seeds and plant matter is highly likely, and the impacts on native ecosystems from this invader are unknown.

-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.

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

Thank you,


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 1:07 pm 
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Location: Austin,TEXAS
As if we don't already have enough invasive non-native plants here... :(

Now they want to purposefully bring mutant meningitis-causing non-native invasive trees???? If I remember correctly California already has a problem with normal eucalyptus but at least those can't grow where it's cold.

Nothing surprises me at this point, but this is just really absurd. Sounds like ArborGen is following in Monsanto's footsteps.... money talks :roll:


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PostPosted: Tue May 18, 2010 6:07 pm 
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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/13/busin ... 3tree.html

U.S. Clears a Test of Bioengineered Trees
By ANDREW POLLACK
Published: May 12, 2010

Federal regulators gave clearance Wednesday for a large and controversial field test of genetically engineered trees planned for seven states stretching from Florida to Texas.

The test is meant to see if the trees, eucalyptuses with a foreign gene meant to help them withstand cold weather, can become a new source of wood for pulp and paper, and for biofuels, in the Southern timber belt. Eucalyptus trees generally cannot now be grown north of Florida because of occasional freezing spells.

The Agriculture Department, in an environmental assessment issued Wednesday, said no environmental problems would be caused by the field trial, which could involve more than 200,000 genetically modified eucalyptus trees on 28 sites covering about 300 acres.

The permit would be issued to ArborGen, a biotechnology company owned by three big forest products companies: International Paper and MeadWestvaco of the United States, and Rubicon of New Zealand.

The Agriculture Department would have to grant separate approval for the trees to be grown commercially, clearance that ArborGen is already seeking.

Although two genetically engineered fruit trees — virus-resistant papaya and plum trees — are already approved for commercial planting in the United States, no forest trees have yet received that clearance in this country.

Genetically engineered trees have the potential to arouse even more controversy than genetically modified crops like corn or soybeans, which are made using the same techniques. That is partly because many people have an emotional attachment to forests that they do not have to cornfields.

Moreover, because trees live longer than annual crops and generally can spread their pollen farther, there are concerns that any unintended environmental effects may spread and persist longer in a woodland environment than in crop fields.

The Agriculture Department said Wednesday that it had received comments opposing the field trial from 12,462 people or organizations, compared with only 45 supporters of the trial. But a vast majority of the opposing comments were nearly identical form letters, it said.

Critics say that the eucalyptus trees, even without foreign genes, may become invasive. They also said the trees were heavy users of water, could spread fires faster and could harbor a fungus that sickens people.

“They’ve been a disaster everywhere they’ve been planted,” said Anne Petermann, coordinator of a coalition called the Stop GE Trees Campaign.

The Sierra Club, in a comment submitted in February, wrote, “ArborGen’s plans to grow 260,000 artificially developed, highly experimental, alien, genetically engineered cloned trees in extensive field trials raises many troubling ecological questions about the short-term and long-term environmental impacts and risks that these trees pose in the United States.”

The Agriculture Department said it had found those possibilities to be unlikely.

“The species of eucalyptus in this permit has difficulty establishing without human intervention, even in warmer climates,” the department said in its initial environmental assessment, dismissing concerns that the genetically engineered trees would spread like a weed. It said other impacts would be limited because each experimental plot would be no larger than 20 acres and isolated from the others.

ArborGen, based in Summerville, S.C., had previously received permission to grow the trees on the 28 sites. But on only two of those sites, covering 7.6 acres, had it received permission to let the trees flower.

The new permit would allow more trees to be planted at the 28 sites and to allow flowering on 27 of the sites. While flowering would normally mean the possibility of reproduction, the trees in the trial have also been engineered to produce no pollen.

ArborGen argues that because they grow so fast, eucalyptus trees would minimize the amount of forest land needed for commercial plantations.

“You are able to produce more wood off fewer acres of land,” Barbara Wells, the company’s president, said in an interview. “It’s very positive from that standpoint.”


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