Tag Archives: ArborGen

Genetically engineered trees for bioenergy pose major threat to southern forests

Note: Global Justice Ecology Project coordinates the STOP Genetically Engineered Trees Campaign.  Join us in telling the USDA to ban genetically engineered trees by signing the petition here.

-The GJEP Team

February 12, 2013. Source: Global Justice Ecology Project

In response to industry plans to develop eucalyptus plantations across the US South[1], environmental groups[2] are raising serious concerns about the impacts of eucalyptus plantations on forests, rural communities, wildlife and the climate, especially if those trees are genetically engineered.

EcoGen, LLC recently announced plans to develop eucalyptus plantations in southern Florida to feed biomass facilities.  Additionally, South Carolina-based ArborGen has requested USDA permission to sell billions of genetically engineered cold tolerant eucalyptus trees for plantations in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.  The USDA is expected to respond to this request in the coming months.

Eucalyptus trees are documented as an invasive pest in California and Florida.  But because they cannot grow in sub-freezing temperatures, they have been engineered to be cold-tolerant, enabling them to survive temperatures down to 20°f – vastly expanding their range.

Besides being highly invasive–the Charlotte Observer called them “the kudzu of the 2010s”–eucalyptus plantations deplete ground water and can even worsen droughts.  The US Forest Service opposes GE eucalyptus plantations due to their impact on ground water and streams. [3,4]

“GE eucalyptus trees are a disaster waiting to happen–it is critical the USDA reject them,” said Global Justice Ecology Project Executive Director Anne Petermann.  “In addition to being invasive, eucalyptus trees are explosively flammable.  In a region that has been plagued by droughts in recent years, developing plantations of an invasive, water-greedy and fire-prone tree is foolhardy and dangerous.”

Petermann coordinates the international STOP GE Trees Campaign [5], which has collected thousands of signatures supporting a ban on GE trees due to their potentially catastrophic impacts on communities and forests.

“The forests of the Southeast are some of the most biodiverse in the world,” said Scot Quaranda, Campaign Director of Asheville, NC-based Dogwood Alliance. “They contain species found nowhere else. Species like the Louisiana Black Bear, the golden-cheeked warbler and the red-cockaded woodpecker are already endangered. Eucalyptus plantations could push these and other species over the edge,” he added.

The Georgia Department of Wildlife opposes GE eucalyptus trees due to these impacts. [6]

The STOP GE Trees Campaign is planning events around the Tree Biotechnology 2013 Conference this May in Asheville, NC, where GE tree industry representatives and researchers will gather to discuss the use of GE trees and their deployment across the US South.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy, Greenwashing

Press Release: Campaign to target genetically engineered trees at Occupy Monsanto conference

For Immediate Release: 13 September, 2012

St. Louis, MO–The Campaign to Stop GE Trees  http://nogetrees.org will participate in the Occupy Monsanto conference here on September 16-17 to sound the alarm about the dangers genetically engineered trees pose to communities, wildlife and forests. The campaign asserts that Monsanto is complicit in this emerging hazard.

Monsanto’s glyphosate-based RoundUp herbicide will be used to control weeds around trees that are genetically engineered to be “RoundUp Ready,” or resistant to that herbicide. Use of this trait in GMO crops led to a documented tripling in the use of the herbicide, resulting in widespread problems with RoundUp resistant weeds, which require applications of more toxic herbicides to eliminate them. [1]

Just as GMO seed giant Monsanto has flooded the global market with their patented GMO seeds, ArborGen, which specializes in genetically engineered tree seedlings, intends to do the same. [2] ArborGen is a joint project of International Paper, MeadWestvaco and New Zealand-based Rubicon and one of their original joint owners was Monsanto.

“It’s clear from researching ArborGen’s public relations messaging that they see themselves as the new Monsanto,” stated Will Bennnington, of Global Justice Ecology Project. “They plan to follow the ruthless Monsanto model and don’t care who gets hurt in the process,” he added.

The links between ArborGen and Monsanto run deep. Numerous current and former staff had long tenures at Monsanto before being employed by ArborGen. [3]

“If ArborGen floods the market with their dangerous and uncontrollable GE trees, these trees will inevitably and irreversibly escape into the environment,” explained Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project and Coordinator of the Campaign to Stop GE Trees. “Patent law has enabled Monsanto to infamously sue farmers for possessing their GMO seeds after these seeds contaminated farmers’ lands. Think what that could mean to National Forests, National Parks or even private landowners if ArborGen’s invasive GE trees were found on those lands,” she continued.

ArborGen currently has a request pending with the USDA to commercially sell hundreds of millions of their GE eucalyptus tree seedlings annually for planting across the US South, claiming they will be used for bioenergy production and climate change mitigation. [4] GE eucalyptus, however, are highly flammable and could lead to uncontrollable firestorms, which would release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Jim Hightower has referred to ArborGen’s GE eucalyptus trees as ‘living firecrackers’.”


Keith Brunner, Media Associate, Global Justice Ecology Project, +1.802.777.5244

Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project /Coordinator of the Campaign to Stop GE Trees, on site. Mobile +1.802.578.0477


[1] Benbrook, C (2009). “Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: The First Thirteen Years,” The Organic Center, November 2009. http://www.organic-center.org/science.pest.php?action=view&report_id=159

[2] ArborGen CEO presentation, May 2012: https://www.nzx.com/files/attachments/157094.pdf and Rubicon 2011 Interim Reviewhttp://www.rubicon-nz.com/main.cfm?menu=left&ItemId=268

[3] http://www.arborgen.us/index.php/about-arborgen/management

[4] Rubicon 2010 Annual Review: http://www.rubicon-nz.com/main.cfm?menu=news&ItemId=100

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering

Breaking News: GMO Tree Field Trial Destroyed in New Zealand

Note:  This breaking news from Aotearoa (New Zealand) was received by GJEP from sources around the world.  A colleague from Aotearoa writes, “…a bulletin on a break-in at the Scion site where people cut through the outer perimeter fence and dug under the inner security barrier to destroy the young [GM pine] saplings…GE Free NZ stopped short of condemning the action… I expect that the next few weeks will see raids on the homes and offices of known political activists over the Scion action. It will be sold to the public as an attempt to stop political insurrection. Wish us all luck. ”

Anne Petermann, GJEP’s Executive Director and Coordinator of the STOP GE Trees Campaign  stated this morning, “With the extreme security measures taken at the site, it is clear that Scion is aware of the powerful public opposition to genetically engineered trees.  People understand the inherent ecological, social and health risks associated with genetically engineered trees, and if the government won’t stop them, this action shows that people are prepared take matters into their own hands.”

Scion has been working in partnership with GE tree company ArborGen since 2006.  The GE eucalyptus trees being field tested by ArborGen in the US were genetically engineered in New Zealand.

For more on the dangers of genetically engineered trees and to read our new report on GE trees, go to: Analysis of the State of GE Trees and Advanced Bioenergy

–The GJEP Team

Cross-posted NZ Newswire unless noted.  More reports, video and sources at end of article.

For video on the incident, please click here (go to upper left side under headline)

375 genetically modified radiata pine trees at a research site have been destroyed by vandals. Photo / APNZ

A research trial of genetically modified trees destroyed by vandals in Rotorua could have informed the public debate on GM technologies, the Royal society of New Zealand says.

Police are investigating the attack over Easter weekend when 375 radiata pines at Scion’s forestry research institute were either cut or pulled out.

The vandals cut through fencing and tunnelled under another to reach the plants, causing about $400,000 of damage.

Royal Society of New Zealand, which promotes science, president Dr Garth Carnaby says the destruction means evidence that would have informed the public debate about GM technologies has been lost.

“Such vandalism is an expensive squandering of New Zealand’s limited research funding.”

Scion chief executive Dr Warren Parker estimated the vandals had caused about $400,000 of damage and put back research by a year.

“The field trial was approved under one of the strictest regulatory regimes in the world, and our team has fully complied with the containment controls. Despite this, our research opponents were determined to stop us and used criminal means to do so.”

The trials were looking at resistance to herbicides and reproductive development.

Massey University Molecular Genetics Professor Barry Scott said vandalism of this kind was “senseless” and destroyed years of work done by researchers.

“What is particularly abhorrent about this act is the thinking by those involved that their rights and actions should take precedent over the rights of other individuals.”

An anti-GE group is denying involvement in the destruction of genetically engineered pine trees at a research site in Rotorua. (msn nz)

GE-Free New Zealand president Claire Bleakley says she doesn’t know who was behind the attack and doubts it was anyone linked to her organisation.

Police believe the trees were destroyed sometime between Monday and Tuesday morning and want to hear from anyone with information.


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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering

There is No One Magic Bullet Solution… So Get Over It!

By Anne Petermann

Blog Post June 7th, 2010

Back home to our little cottage on the lake—back to the sanity of being surrounded by native forest instead of megalomaniacal bureaucrats intent on capitalizing off the rape and plunder of the earth under the auspices of climate mitigation.

First, of course, we had one last stop prior to boarding our respective planes and trains back to sanity—a presentation at the European Parliament in Brussels.

This time it was one of the Ministers of Parliament (MEP) responsible for implementing the European Union’s “renewable energy” target of 20% by 2020 that took issue with our analysis.

Once again it was Deepak’s presentation that was most hotly debated—perhaps because it best showed, through graphic photographs, the wholesale devastation of primeval rainforests for woodchips for export—the direct and indirect result of the EU’s desire to fulfill its renewable energy commitment by burning trees for electricity.

The MEP explained that we had limited choices—wood-based fuels (liquid and electric) or even worse options like nuclear power or large-scale hydroelectricity.  To me this is a false dichotomy.  It is not either burn trees or build nukes or flood rivers.  The solution is to transform the way we live on this earth.  The solution is to find the small-scale truly sustainable alternatives that make sense for each bioregion.  The solutions for Vermont are not going to be the same as the solutions for Belgium.  And the big magic bullet solutions do not exist.  Forget about it.  Technology and the markets are not going to save us from this mess—especially since they have contributed so significantly to it.

The faster we get over the idea of the imaginary single magic solution, the sooner we can dig in to the work at hand.

Here in the United States, the crisis of burning trees for electricity is a little closer to home—especially in those regions that still have some intact forest left—whether primary forest or second growth native forest, these forests are now under the gun.  With plans for new biomass electricity plants popping up all over the place, and with the EU demand for trees leading to increased woodchip exports from the U.S., our forests are under threat like they haven’t been since the continent was first invaded by those white folks who’d already trashed their own forests.

And don’t forget the threat from genetically engineered trees!  Eucalyptus and poplar trees are being avidly engineered to provide better agrofuels (liquid transport fuels) and faster growing biomass.  And it’s the Gulf Coast states where these Franken-eucalyptus plantations are planned to be developed.

So, while it was good to spend time with allies in Europe, and we had many important meetings about international forest policy and GE trees, it was really good to finally get back home to our office in Vermont where we are developing strategies to take on ArborGen and defeat their plans for vast industrial plantations of non-native, invasive, water depleting and flammable eucalyptus trees.

GJEP Co-Director Orin Langelle and I have collectively been working to protect forests and the rights of forest-dependent peoples for close to 50 years.  This is one forest fight that we cannot, we will not, lose.

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, GE Trees, Indigenous Peoples, Posts from Anne Petermann, REDD

Sojourner Truth Show on KPFK Pacifica Radio

Listen to Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project and Coordinator of the Stop GE Trees Campaign, discuss the BP oil spill, the climate change bill and the USDA approval of GMO tree plantations in the U.S. south.

Please click the link below:

KPFK Show 5:13:10

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, GE Trees

GMO Trees Approved for U.S. South

Media Release                             May 13, 2010

U.S. Department of Agriculture Approves Release of GE Trees

USDA Approves ArborGen’s Request to Plant 260,000 Genetically Engineered Eucalyptus Trees Across U.S. South

Yesterday the USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service issued its decision to approve the mass-release of over a quarter of a million GE eucalyptus trees across seven states in the U.S. South (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina), despite overwhelming public opposition.

“We are very disappointed but not surprised by the USDA’s decision, which is likely to have severe social and environmental impacts,” stated Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project and Coordinator of the STOP GE Trees Campaign. “The USDA’s final environmental assessment disregarded concerns raised by thousands of people in comments submitted opposing the release of GE eucalyptus trees.”

The STOP GE Trees Campaign, which includes organizations, foresters and scientists from across the U.S. and around the world is preparing its next steps following the USDA decision.

Simone Lovera, Executive Director of the Global Forest Coalition said from her office in Asuncion, Paraguay, “This is not only bad for the U.S. This decision could open the door globally to these cold-tolerant eucalyptus and other transgenic trees which would have serious impacts on Indigenous and forest dwelling peoples around the world and lead to more biodiversity loss.”

To read the USDA’s final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact, go to: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/biotech_ea_permits.html

For background on the work of the STOP GE Trees Campaign and the threats of GE eucalyptus trees and other GMO trees, go to http://www.nogetrees.org

To sign the petition opposing the mass-planting of GE trees, please go to:


– Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project and Coordinator, STOP GE Trees Campaign, +1.802.578.0477
– Scot Quaranda, Campaigns Director, Dogwood Alliance, +1.828.251.2525 x 18

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Filed under GE Trees