April 30, 2013. Source: Global Justice Ecology Project
By a majority of almost 99.99% to .01%, the US public overwhelming rejected steps toward the legalization of genetically engineered trees during the USDA APHIS public comment period that ended yesterday. The comments were in response to a petition by genetically engineered (GE) tree company ArborGen requesting permission to commercially sell their GE freeze tolerant eucalyptus trees. Calls for a ban on the technology flooded the APHIS office, through individual online comments, petitions and online virtual meetings.
“Yesterday, during APHIS’s ‘Invasive Species Month,’ the people of the US issued a firm demand to APHIS to reject invasive, flammable genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees,”said Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project Executive Director and Coordinator of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered (GE) Trees. “We will continue to hold the government accountable to the will of the people, rather than corporate interests.”
South Carolina-based ArborGen hopes to sell billions of GE cold-tolerant eucalyptus trees for planting across millions of acres in the US South in vast industrial plantations to supply biofuel, biomass electricity and paper production.
Dr. Rachel Smolker, Co-Director of Biofuelwatch stated, “ArborGen’s reckless vision of using the US South as a giant sacrifice zone for energy production would wreak havoc on rural communities, native forests and wildlife across the region, pushing already endangered species like the Louisiana Black Bear and the Red-cockaded Woodpecker over the edge.” Dr. Smolker added, “and despite the rhetoric about replacing fossil fuels with climate-friendly fuels, this wood-based energy will actually worsen climate change.”
Genetically engineered and other industrial tree plantations are not only a concern in the US, but internationally. Rural communities in Brazil have been fighting non-GE eucalyptus plantations for decades, and are also opposing the introduction of GE eucalyptus plantations. Additionally, in 2006 and 2008 the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) warned countries of the social and ecological dangers of GE trees.
In late May, Global Justice Ecology Project, the Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Biofuelwatch along with Earth First! and the Dogwood Alliance are mobilizing events and protests around the IUFRO Tree Biotechnology 2013 conference in Asheville, NC. Opposition organizers are taking credit for the recent cancellation of an IUFRO-sponsored field trip to a forestry research site planned for 29 May as part of the conference. Organizers believe the field trip was cancelled due to the threat of protest.