Project Earth, an environmental blog from the Gizmodo Media Group, recently published an article With US’s First Genetically Modified Tree Comes a Forest of Potential Problems featuring information and data from the Campaign to STOP GE Trees.
Writer Lucas Isakowitz interviewed Dr. Rachel Smolker, steering committee member of the Campaign and co-director of Biofuelwatch:
This is the first forest tree species that has been considered for deregulation, and it would be in many ways precedent setting for the regulatory agency,” explained Dr. Rachel Smolker. “We can learn from history: genetically engineered food crops have done all sorts of collateral damage… over and over and over again they’ve escaped from their containment and spread into the environment, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that a GE tree wouldn’t do the same thing that virtually every other crop has done.”
ArborGen’s eucalyptus are engineered for cold tolerance with the intent of extending their range into the Southern US, from South Carolina to Texas. Eucalyptus trees are native only to Australia. Eucalyptus plantations are invasive, notorious for depleting waterways and highly flammable–as demonstrated by recent wildfires in Chile and Portugal. Project Earth asked Smolker about this flammability factor:
Not only are eucalyptus trees flammable, they emit volatile compounds that can be explosive under the right fire conditions,” said Smolker. “The recent fires that we’ve seen in Portugal were associated with eucalyptus plantations, and some months ago there were fires in Chile, again those were associated with plantations, including eucalyptus plantations.”