FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 3/7/2023
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published their draft Environmental Impact Statement and draft Plant Pest Risk Assessment recommending approval of the petition to allow the unrestricted and unmonitored release of the first-ever GMO plant (a GE American chestnut) into the wild with the intent to spread and contaminate wild relatives.
In response, thousands of individuals commented to APHIS rejecting this draft approval, and over 150,000 others registered their opposition through sign on letters and petitions.
Many organizations have submitted comments and/or signed on to the campaign to prevent the release of GE trees into wild forests.
A list of organizations with links to their comments of opposition to the release of the Genetically Engineered American Chestnut is available on the STOP GE Trees website.
“The proposed release of this genetically engineered tree into wild forests would be an irrevocable and dangerous experiment and would set a terrible precedent” said Anne Petermann, Coordinator of the International Campaign to STOP GE Trees.
The following is a sample comment from Rural Coalition:
“It cannot be overstated that the ongoing challenges for Black, Native American and other historically underserved farmers and communities engaged in small-scale agriculture often accrue a disproportionate burden of unforeseen ecological and economic consequences…
“Citing our community-based research and prior comments on GE trees, we draw on what we have learned from the case of the [invasive] eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) to emphasize the need to find out what is currently unknown in the GE American Chestnut research and restoration experiment. In addition to potential weediness and the impacts on humans, agriculture, plants and animals, APHIS must also consider the possibility that Darling 58 will not resume its historical role as a keystone canopy species and that in the interim (century) may affect current canopy trees and keystone species (such as Oak, Maple, Hickory); as well as produce unknown effects on the wild habitat of animals and pollinators.
“We therefore strongly recommend no action on the petition at this time. We further recommend continued public engagement by a wider array of stakeholders, including those likely to be directly affected, objective monitoring by federal agencies, and increased cross-sector, interdisciplinary collaboration in what is proposed to be a wholly novel, large-scale restoration project seeking to radically change existing natural forests and ecosystems by introducing a precedent-setting transgenic tree.”
NOTE: The Campaign to STOP GE Trees denounced the comment period.