“We, the undersigned organizations, oppose the release of genetically engineered trees into wild forests in the US and Canada.”
Researchers have requested approval from the US Department of Agriculture USDA) to release genetically engineered (GE, also called genetically modified or GM) American chestnut trees, which they claim are tolerant to the blight that drove the American chestnut to near extinction. The proposal is to plant the GE trees in our forests, to spread freely in the wild. The stated aim of the project is to use the GE tree to “restore” the species.
The GE American chestnut would be the first GE forest tree approved for unrestricted planting in North America, and the first-ever genetically modified organism (GMO) designed to spread into ecosystems. There are no long-term risk assessments of the impact of these GE trees on our forests, and it is not possible to conduct such assessments.
The use of genetic engineering could undermine American chestnut restoration efforts. Moreover, it is highly unlikely that the GE chestnut will actually succeed in being effectively blight resistant over time. Meanwhile, yet another pathogen lethal to American chestnut is spreading through our forests. The biotechnology and timber industries have long sought government approval to grow GE trees. Release of a GE tree to “restore” the beloved chestnut could open the door to approval of other GE trees, like poplar and pine designed for industrial plantations.
Indigenous peoples have not yet consented to the release of this GE tree which could spread across their territories and ancestral lands. Elders and wisdom keepers who have counseled us on the issue of genetic engineering warn this is another attempt to control and commodify the living world. Each step taken in this direction has the potential to further threaten biodiversity already weakened by unchecked natural resource exploitation.
Planting GE trees in forests is a large-scale and potentially irreversible experiment that could have unforeseeable consequences for forest ecosystems. We demand US and Canadian governments prohibit the release of GE American chestnut trees.
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Issued by The Campaign to STOP GE Trees, July 2020