Sign the Petition to Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

This petition closed 11 months ago

Genetically engineered trees (GE trees) pose an unprecedented threat to US forests. GE tree company ArborGen has a request pending with the USDA to legalize the sale of millions of GE eucalyptus trees. These trees would be sold for pulp and biofuel plantations across Texas, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. Eucalyptus trees have fueled deadly, catastrophic fires in Australia and are an extreme fire risk in California, where they are considered an invasive species.

Ecological Catastrophe

Eucalyptus trees are introduced organisms in the US and are documented as invasive pests in California and Florida. ArborGen's GE eucalyptus are cold-tolerant, making them potentially invasive over a large geographical area, which is sure to expand due to climate change. Experience in California and other parts of the world has demonstrated that once planted, eucalyptus is nearly impossible to eradicate. Additionally, the approval of GE eucalyptus trees could open the door to the commercial release of GE versions of native trees like poplar and pine. The inevitable escape of seeds and pollen from these GE trees could irreversibly contaminate native forests for hundreds of miles.

The U.S. Forest Service has stated that large-scale plantings of eucalyptus lower water tables, and affect groundwater recharge and local stream flows, in some cases eliminating seasonal streams. This is of particular concern in light of recent drought conditions in parts of the South. They state, "[eucalyptus] water use is at least 2-fold greater than most other native forests in the southeastern US."

Human Health at Risk

In dry regions or areas where droughts occur, eucalyptus create an environment that is highly flammable. Wildfires in Oakland, California in 1991 and in Australia in 2009—both fueled by eucalyptus trees—killed scores of people and caused billions of dollars in losses. Creating huge plantations of these flammable trees is potentially catastrophic.

The fatal fungal pathogen, Cryptococcus gattii has been found in the U.S. It can cause fatal fungal meningitis among people and animals that inhale its spores. One of the eucalyptus species used in the GE eucalyptus hybrids (E. grandis) is a known host for Cryptococcus gattii. Creating extensive habitat for this fatal fungal pathogen is dangerous.

The Plan

From May 26-June 1, industry leaders, scientists and policy makers will meet in Asheville, NC for the Tree Biotechnology 2013 Conference. The conference will discuss current and future applications of GE trees, including their deployment in the United States.

With your support, GJEP will bring thousands of signatures to this conference to let the industry know that public opposition is strong, and that the public is willing to take action to stop these dangerous trees from destroying our native forests and wildlife, as well as further fueling climate change.

GJEP has been fighting for over a decade to stop the release of GE trees into the environment. With the support of the public and our partner organizations, we have been successful in preventing their large-scale, commercial release. It is only with your support that we can continue this fight.

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