Consumer Affairs recently published an article titled, Forest industry wants to blanket the south with invasive, flammable tree species, which covers ArborGen’s plans to legalize and spread genetically engineered eucalyptus plantations throughout the country. While the article states that over 500 signatures were collected and sent to the USDA in opposition of ArborGen’s plans, there were in fact over 280,000 signatures gathered against GE eucalyptus.
At some point in the near future, a company called ArborGen envisions an American south blanketed with eucalyptus trees genetically engineered to survive the cold winter.
To feed the paper and pulp industry, which ArborGen says is worth $60 billion, plantations dedicated to “purpose-grown” trees should be extensively developed without federal oversight, the company says.They say that their plantations do not need to be regulated because introducing eucalyptus plantations to the south is “unlikely” to harm the local environment.
“Deregulation of the [Freeze Tolerant Eucalyptus] lines is unlikely to have any negative environmental consequences resulting from gene flow and outcrossing to other species,” Arborgen writes to the United States Department of Agriculture, in a petition asking for “deregulation” of its proposed plantations.
The company goes on to cite a report which claims that deregulating genetically engineered eucalyptus tree plantations will have “no significant negative environmental impacts.” They make that claim despite an environmental assessment released by the USDA that estimates that ArborGen’s plantations would likely cover at least one million acres in the south.
“Based on the scientific literature and data from our field trials we therefore do not believe that any new significant negative environmental impacts would result from the deregulation of [Freeze Tolerant Eucalyptus],” ArborGen adds in its petition to the government.
Rather than deforestation, the company instead pitches its plans as “reforestation.” They want to replace the existing, native pine in states like Georgia with their genetically modified, freeze tolerant eucalyptus trees. The company already has permission to field test its plans across the United States, but is currently seeking approval to expand its GE tree plantations for commercial use.