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Full Letter to the USDA

Letter Below Demanding A Ban on Genetically Engineered Trees

USDA/APHIS

To Whom It May Concern,

To Whom It May Concern, I demand that all petitions and requests to release genetically engineered trees into the environment be rejected as they are unpredictably dangerous and destructive, and the full extent of their social and ecological risks has not and cannot be assessed. To fully avoid contamination of forests with GE trees or their seeds and pollen, all outdoor plantings of GE trees must be immediately removed.

Further, I demand that all GE trees be banned outright.

This includes GE Loblolly pines, eucalyptus, poplars, sweetgums, American chestnuts and any forest trees genetically engineered for modified wood, increased terpene levels, freeze tolerance, altered fertility, faster growth, insect, herbicide, blight or fungus resistance, stress tolerance or any other engineered trait.

An example of the dangers of GE trees:

Eucalyptus trees are introduced organisms in the U.S. and are documented as invasive pests in parts of California and Florida.  Yet they are being engineered by ArborGen for freeze tolerance to enable them to be grown in vast plantations in the US from South Carolina to Texas.  Experience in California and other parts of the world has clearly demonstrated that when eucalyptus escape, it is next to impossible to eradicate them. Yet ArborGen plans to sell half a billion GE eucalyptus seedlings annually for planting in huge industrial plantations across the US South from Texas to South Carolina.

The freeze tolerance trait could vastly expand the range of this GE eucalyptus tree–and hence enhance its ability to invade native ecosystems.  It would also enable these trees to be grown around the world in regions currently too cold for conventional eucalyptus plantations.

As well, the U.S. Forest Service has stated that large-scale plantings of eucalyptus lower water tables, and affect groundwater recharge and local stream flows, in some cases eliminating seasonal streams. This is of particular concern in light of existing drought conditions in parts of the South.  They state, “[eucalyptus] water use is at least 2-fold greater than most other native forests in the southeastern US.”

In dry regions or areas where droughts occur, eucalyptus are at high risk of catching fire.  Wildfires in Oakland California in 1991 and in Australia in 2009, both fueled by eucalyptus trees, killed scores of people and caused billions in losses.

The fatal fungal pathogen, Crytococcus Gattii has been found in the U.S.  It can cause fatal fungal meningitis among people and animals that inhale its spores.  One of the eucalyptus species used in the GE eucalyptus hybrids (E. Grandis) is a known host for Cryptococcus Gattii.  Creating extensive habitat for this fatal fungal pathogen is dangerous and foolhardy.

ArborGen’s GE trees and all GE trees must be rejected, and all field trials removed, before it is too late.

Sincerely,

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