Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Protesters to Biotech Industry: If GE Trees Are Planted, Expect Resistance

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently considering approval of the first genetically engineered (GE) tree for commercial use—a GE eucalyptus tree developed by the biotechnology corporation ArborGen. The tree is designed to withstand colder climates and would primarily be cultivated to provide pulp for paper and wood pellets used for fuel.

Stephanie Hall, a member of the Toad clan of the Seminolee Miccosukee People, interrupts the ArborGen event. Photo credit: Will Bennington/ GJEP

Yesterday in Tallahassee, FL, outraged demonstrators interrupted an event hosted by ArborGen, giving a stark warning to participants to expect resistance and growing protests should they plant GE trees, according to a press release from the Global Justice Equality Project (GJEP). The event brought together landowners and foresters from the industrial tree plantation sector and featured top ArborGen scientists working on GE trees. 

"We sent a clear message to participants—plant genetically engineered trees and expect resistance," said Keith Brunner, an organizer with GJEP. “Invasive GE eucalyptus, planned for deployment across the U.S. South, would irrevocably devastate native ecosystems, exacerbate droughts and lead to catastrophic firestorms. This must be stopped before it is too late."

The USDA is expected to accept public comments on the GE eucalyptus soon, following the release of its draft Environmental Impact Statement on ArborGen's request to commercially sell the trees. And though public comments can be a force of their own, the USDA will ultimately issue the final decision approving or denying ArborGen's request.

If approved, ArborGen could soon sell millions of  the freeze-tolerant, potentially flammable and invasive GE eucalyptus trees across the country. According the GJEP, approval  could open the door to approval for other GE species like GE pine and poplar, which pose additional risks due to the likelihood of contamination of wild species in native forests.

Stephanie Hall, a member of the Toad Clan of the Seminolee Miccosukee People, also pointed out the link between ArborGen's plans and the history of genocide against Indigenous Peoples in the region, saying, "ArborGen could not be planning for the development of vast industrial plantations of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees on land in Florida without the previous history of genocide and forced removal of Indigenous men, women, children, plants and animals from the region. People should not be complicit in this—we must ban genetically engineered trees."

"Early last year, the USDA received nearly 40,000 comments opposing ArborGen's GE eucalyptus, with only a handful received in favor," stated Anne Petermann, executive director of GJEP, noting only four of the submitted comments were supportive of the approval of GE eucalyptus. "Then in May of 2013, the international Tree Biotechnology conference in Asheville, NC, was protested and disrupted for almost a week by hundreds of protesters. These protests and today's disruption are only the beginning. As the USDA considers ArborGen's request to legalize GE trees, opposition to these trees and the threats they pose to communities and native forests continues to grow."

Non-GE eucalyptus plantations have had devastating impacts all over the world. Based on these documented impacts, GJEP expects GE eucalyptus plantations in the U.S. to likely cause:

  • Clearcutting of biodiverse forests for conversion to industrial GE eucalyptus plantations–called “green deserts” due to their devastating impacts on biodiversity.

  • Invasive spread of GE eucalyptus trees into native ecosystems–eucalyptus are already a documented invasive species in Florida and California.

  • Increased danger of firestorms—eucalyptus contain a highly volatile oil and are explosively flammable.

  • Displacement of wildlife that cannot use the non-native eucalyptus trees for habitat or food.

  • Contamination of soils and groundwater with toxic agrochemicals used on the plantations.

  • Worsening of drought—eucalyptus have deep tap roots, monopolize ground water and dry up soils.

  • Worsening of climate change through the destruction of carbon rich native forests for carbon poor plantations.

As has been the case with GE foods, despite whatever negative consequences the technology may bring about, GE "factory forests" will likely be highly profitable for the biotech companies, as GE crops have been for companies like Monsanto and Syngenta. The Center for Food Safety reports that should the USDA approve AbroGen's GE eucalyptus, the company has projected its profits will grow from $25 million to $500 million in five years. Corporations almost always exist to make money, so Americans should be able to count on the USDA to offset greed with some sort of ethics and make decisions that keep public health and environmental protection as their highest priority. 

--------

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Genetically Engineering Trees for Biofuels Undermines Real Energy and Climate Solutions

Report Details Potential Hazards of Genetically Engineered Trees Currently Under USDA Review

University of Florida Threatens Arrest and Evicts Anti-GE Tree Campaigners From Campus

--------

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A scenic view of West Papua. Reza Fakhrudin / Pexels

By Arkilaus Kladit

My name is Arkilaus Kladit. I'm from the Knasaimos-Tehit tribe in South Sorong Regency, West Papua Province, Indonesia. For decades my tribe has been fighting to protect our forests from outsiders who want to log it or clear it for palm oil. For my people, the forest is our mother and our best friend. Everything we need to survive comes from the forest: food, medicines, building materials, and there are many sacred sites in the forest.

Read More Show Less
Everyone overthinks their lives or options every once in a while. Some people, however, can't stop the wheels and halt their train of thoughts. Peter Griffith / Getty Images

By Farah Aqel

Overthinkers are people who are buried in their own obsessive thoughts. Imagine being in a large maze where each turn leads into an even deeper and knottier tangle of catastrophic, distressing events — that is what it feels like to them when they think about the issues that confront them.

Read More Show Less
A newly developed catalyst would transform carbon dioxide from power plants and other sources into ethanol. DWalker44 / E+ / Getty Images

Researchers at the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory have discovered a cheap, efficient way to convert carbon dioxide into liquid fuel, potentially reducing the amount of new carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere.

Read More Show Less
Eureka Sound on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic taken by NASA's Operation IceBridge in 2014. NASA / Michael Studinger / Flickr / CC by 2.0

A 4,000-year-old ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic has collapsed into the sea, leaving Canada without any fully intact ice shelves, Reuters reported. The Milne Ice Shelf lost more than 40 percent of its area in just two days at the end of July, said researchers who monitored its collapse.

Read More Show Less
Teachers and activists attend a protest hosted by Chicago Teachers Union in Chicago, Illinois on Aug. 3, 2020 to demand classroom safety measures as schools debate reopening. KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus cases surging around the U.S. are often carried by kids, raising fears that the reopening of schools will be delayed and calling into question the wisdom of school districts that have reopened already.

Read More Show Less
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern holds up COVID-19 alert levels during a press conference at Parliament on March 21, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand. Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images

By Michael Baker, Amanda Kvalsvig and Nick Wilson

On Sunday, New Zealand marked 100 days without community transmission of COVID-19.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Medics with Austin-Travis County EMS transport a nursing home resident with coronavirus symptoms on Aug. 3, 2020 in Austin, Texas. John Moore / Getty Images

The U.S. passed five million coronavirus cases on Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, just 17 days after it hit the four-million case mark.

Read More Show Less