The Big Green Lies – FrankenTrees a Clear and Present Danger to the Southeast

Southeast is Ground Zero for Destructive False Forests

ArborGen, a leading biotech corporation specializing in supplying hybrid tree seedlings for the commercial forestry industry is ready to offer a genetically engineered freeze tolerant eucalyptus tree to their customers in the U.S. Southeast.

If the permit to deregulate is granted, this will be the first GE tree specifically designed for commercial applications that will thrive in regions not normally conducive to growing eucalyptus.

This human, desires-driven manipulation of nature is not only to  meet current market demands for lumber and wood pulp products but to expand and become a major resource for biomass energy generation. Other end uses include trees that produce chemical elements for synthetic food additives, health and beauty aids, and feedstocks for the production of chemical fertilizers, plastics, paints and even antacids.

ArborGen’s freeze tolerant GE eucalyptus can, if this permit is granted begin distribution before fall planting in states from Texas to South Carolina. If this happens, fields and forests across the southeast could be transformed into massive, toxic, GE eucalyptus plantations.

Highly managed tree plantations, sometimes called “fast forests” in Asia and South America, have caused the demise of millions of acres of fertile rainforest and grasslands. Indigenous Peoples in these regions have lost all rights to their ancestral lands, sometimes by violent and deadly evictions and relocations. Across the world, Indigenous Peoples are being sacrificed for the capitalistic goals of developed countries. There is no reason not to surmise that expansion here in the U.S. will be less intensive or intrusive.

If approved, GE eucalyptus will substitute and supplement coal in power plants across the U.S. The proponents of biomass energy production claim that burning trees is carbon neutral, sustainable, and a cleaner alternative. The U.S. government has also supported this claim and was cited in the now canceled Clean Power Plan, that growing and burning trees for energy is carbon neutral and less polluting. None of which is true.

Not only is burning trees for energy production not carbon neutral nor clean, the unregulated production of these trees will endanger the biodiversity of our natural forests as water resources are depleted and poisoned. Neighboring communities will also be exposed to large quantities of toxic chemicals used for intensive tree production.

Tree plantations if allowed to grow unchecked and become a prime feedstock will encourage unsustainable economic growth at the peril of the precious forests that remain and the delicate biodiversity we can’t afford to sacrifice. Our remaining natural forests could also be in danger of being replaced by GE tree plantations when demands increase for wood fibers and pulp.

Much of the loss is undeniably attributed to an out-of-control system built on the premise that the commodification of the world’s natural resources is somehow sustainable. Every intact forested area on Mother Earth is at risk of focused and rapid exploitation from these industries and the demand for biomass resources will exponentially increase the already severe consequences.

As corporations appropriate more acreage to increase output and profits, we cannot allow this to happen in the southeastern United States.

What’s At Stake

genetically engineered trees, tree plantations, monoculture, biodiversity, natural forests

ArborGen Loblolly pine plantation, South Carolina. Photo Credit: BJ McManama

Southeastern Native American and front line rural communities depend on the forests, rivers, swamps and grasslands for cultural resources, and subsistence needs of food and medicine. Encroachment of massive GE tree plantations will have untold negative effects to the surrounding ecosystems. Water tables will be depleted, as eucalyptus requires and aggressively consumes massive amounts of water.

In the last couple of decades, climate change has resulted in diminishing rainfall totals and created severe drought conditions that some areas have not fully recovered from. Adding massive numbers of water-hungry trees will further stress this limited resource, threatening the survival of native species.

Wildfires in the last decade have consumed millions of acres of wildlands and forests. Many of these have been more destructive than fires in the past. Drought and disease has changed the makeup of the forest floor and the natural ability of native trees to withstand and recover from fires. Adding highly flammable eucalyptus trees to southeastern regions will only serve to increase the intensity and destruction. Nearby towns and homes would be at greater risk as well.

Preparation of land for tree plantations will displace and/or eliminate hundreds of birds, animals, fish, insects, and fauna as thousands of acres are cleared of all vegetation. Nothing can remain but bare earth. Next herbicides are sprayed profusely over the entire area to prevent any leftover or new vegetation from competing with the newly planted seedlings. Fertilizer and pesticides are applied by plane or large sprinkler-type mechanisms on a regular basis, allowing deadly chemical drift far beyond the borders of the tree plantation. Rains and runoff will carry chemicals down into the water table and nearby streams and rivers. The natural process of convection has also been proven to spread these substances hundreds if not thousands of miles away.

Commercial GE eucalyptus tree plantations will operate on a five- to seven-year planting/harvesting cycles. After each harvest the cycle of clearing and application of chemicals begins again. The land suffers repeated intense removal of organic matter, and continued applications of chemical fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides.

High concentrations of GE eucalyptus tree plantations will have unpredictable and irreversible negative consequences to our diverse and complex ecosystems.

We can’t afford to continue to saturate our air, water, and lands with high concentrations of deadly chemicals and expect that our lives and those of future generations won’t be at risk. We can’t continue to extract resources from Mother Earth at the speed and quantities we are currently taking them and expect to survive as a species.

Eucalyptus is listed as a highly invasive species and is not native to North America. Like other genetically modified organisms (GMOs), these GE trees carry with them the risk of invading delicate ecosystems. The assurances provided that these won’t escape into the wild aren’t backed up by historical evidence.  During the U.S.’s 30-year experiment with GE crops there is case after case of them escaping containment, despite industry and USDA’s claims that they would not. Once released the feral characteristics that enable them to thrive in the wild, will pose grave and devastating risks to our natural forests.

Genetic engineering also comes with the risk of mutations to both the GE organism and others within the ecosystem it is placed. Stresses like disease, drought, and changes in tolerances toward chemicals used can produce unwanted and destructive consequences. To engineer this GE “freeze tolerant” eucalyptus, ArborGen used gene sequences from 6 different species of bacteria and plants, which provides additional threats of mutations in the tree’s genome when it is exposed to environmental stresses like drought, disease, and chemical exposures.

Precautionary Principle Must Be Implemented

There are far too many unanswered questions regarding potential risks associated with releasing millions of GE eucalyptus trees across the U.S. Southeast. These questions alone precipitate a complete moratorium on approval of all genetically engineered trees and suspending all field trials until answers can be provided. Native American Tribes and front line communities must be consulted before GE tree plantations are established within their regions and requirements must be established and enforced to ensure protection from aggressive expansion tactics that have caused major human rights violations in developing countries.


The Indigenous Environmental Network’s (IEN) Save Our Roots campaign is dedicated to stopping the infiltration of GE trees either for restoration or commercialization of GE trees on Indigenous Lands. This includes both treaty and traditional territories where our Peoples have lived and thrived for generations. Our peoples continue to depend on the resources of the forests, rivers, streams, grasslands and swamps that unchecked industrialization of trees and forest products will threaten.

IEN is a member organization of the Campaign to Stop GE Trees.

Sign the Petition Below and Tell the USDA:

NO GE TREE PLANTATIONS IN THE U.S. SOUTHEAST!

 

Reject Genetically Engineered Non-Native Eucalyptus Tree Plantations in the U.S. Southeast

To: Ms. Cindy Eck
USDA APHIS
Biotechnology Resource Services (BRS)
4700 River Road, Unit 147
Riverdale, MD 20737

Dear Ms. Eck;

Re: ArborGen Inc. Petition (11-019-01p) for Determination of Non-Regulated Status for Freeze Tolerant Eucalyptus Lines FTE 427 and FTE 435 (Docket No. APHIS 2012 0030):
1. Draft Environmental Impact Statement, EIS No. 20170061 (April 2017) (APHIS 2012-0030-0635); and
2. Plant Pest Risk Assessment (March 2017) (APHIS-2012-0030-0634).

We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the Native American and rural front line communities who will be negatively affected if this permit is granted. This tree has been specifically designed to grow outside of its natural region in order to be produced in massive monoculture tree plantations that will threaten the delicate biodiversity of field and forests far outside their boundaries.

In other regions of the world where tree plantations have replaced natural forests and grasslands, entire communities of Indigenous Peoples have been driven from their traditional lands. Communities in and around these eucalyptus and oil palm plantations have lost access to clean water, and subsistence resources of food and traditional medicines. They are subjected to lethal amounts of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides that inundate the air, water and land causing devastating health effects. [1] Peoples of the U.S. Southeast have every reason to believe if this GE eucalyptus is deregulated, and these operations are allowed to become established, they will face many of the same negative human and environmental consequences.

We strongly oppose this permit on the grounds that the intended commercialization of GE eucalyptus trees as a single source or co-source for biomass energy generation is not carbon neutral and releases deadly nanoparticles [2] into the atmosphere. Further, we reject the commercialization of these trees in all forms due to inevitable environmental destruction and serious human rights violations.

I demand the USDA unconditionally reject ArborGen’s request to legalize genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees (FTE 427 and FTE 435). [3]
The USDA must reject this GE eucalyptus tree and retract all outdoor field trials. If approval is granted it would be a precedent-setting action that will open the door to other GE trees such as poplar and pine that will negatively impact the majority of regions in North America.

There are far too many risks associated with GE eucalyptus trees including invasiveness, “explosive” flammability, fresh water depletion, destruction of native forests and biodiversity, harming endangered species and increasing applications of toxic chemicals. Native American and traditional front line communities will be subjected to the dangers of deadly forest/wildfires and deadly health effects from over exposure to chemicals in the air and water from nearby operations. We cannot allow the same human rights abuses that have taken place in countries around the world where tree farms have spread like a cancer on the lands, to happen here in the U.S.

We demand the USDA fully reject GE eucalyptus trees for the following reasons:

Freeze Tolerant GE Eucalyptus Could Expand the Disaster of Eucalyptus Plantations
The devastating social and ecological impacts of plantations, especially eucalyptus are well documented and vast. [4] ArborGen’s freeze tolerant GE eucalyptus trees could allow eucalyptus plantations to expand to new geographies around the world, impacting Indigenous and Traditional Front Line communities, forests and biodiversity in their path.

GE Eucalyptus Trees = Fresh Water Loss
Water is a sacred to Native American Peoples, the loss of which would not only be dangerous and unhealthy but culturally devastating as well. Millions of GE eucalyptus trees growing within our treaty and sacred traditional territories will without a doubt will have negative consequences on this precious natural resource.

Non-GE eucalyptus trees require much more water to grow than native trees. Millions of trees will devastate regions in the southeast that have been hit hard with severe drought conditions. Many areas have not recovered once normal water reserves. In locations in South America and Southeast Asian countries rivers have and continue to reach dangerously low levels and some disappear for months. What ground water does still remain, in and around these plantations, is contaminated with toxic chemicals used on the plantations. This disaster must be avoided in the Southeast US.

GE Eucalyptus Have Unpredictable & Irreversible Impacts
Unlike other genetically modified agricultural crops, GE trees can live for decades and can negatively impact surrounding ecosystems the longer they remain. This dynamic makes it impossible to predict with any certainty that there will be no damage to delicate biodiversity. Tree plantations on five to seven year harvesting cycles will be subjected to multiple rounds of deadly chemicals used to prepare the planting area and subsequent rounds of herbicides, pesticides and petroleum-based fertilizers. These chemicals then end up airborne and infiltrate local streams, rivers and groundwater.

Forests are highly complex ecosystems, and the impacts GE trees will have on them will likely be unpredictable and irreversible. There are many confirmed cases of genetically modified organisms causing mutations in the host as well as effecting other organisms within that ecosystem. To engineer this GE “freeze tolerant” eucalyptus, ArborGen used gene sequences from 6 different species of bacteria and plants, which provides additional threats of mutations in the tree’s genome when exposed to environmental stresses like drought, disease, and chemical exposures. These are additional threats that we will be ill-prepared to deal with.

GE Eucalyptus Trees are both Invasive and “Explosively Flammable”
Eucalyptus trees are documented as invasive in California and Hawaii and an expected invasive in Florida. The draft EIS acknowledges that this GE eucalyptus could become invasive. [5]

Eucalyptus are also notoriously flammable, especially in hot, dry conditions. In 1991, eucalyptus trees contributed to massive wildfires in the Oakland Hills that burned 3,354 homes. Officials described the eucalyptus as “exploding” in the fires. California now spends millions each year to eradicate these invasive trees. [6]

Planting invasive, water draining, explosively flammable GE eucalyptus plantations in the US South, where droughts have become a regular phenomenon, is a disaster waiting to happen.

GE Eucalyptus Trees Will Require More Toxic Chemicals
The toxic chemicals used on plantations contaminate air, water and soil, and poison people living nearby. The USDA acknowledges that GE eucalyptus plantations will require even more toxic chemicals than existing pine plantations.

GE Tree Plantations Would Destroy Native Forests & Harm Endangered Species
ArborGen argues that GE trees would protect forests by growing more wood on less land. This directly contradicts the UN Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO). The FAO found that between 1990 and 2010, the amount of wood grown per hectare of land increased by 50%, while the land covered by plantations increased by over 60% [7].

Endangered species are especially threatened by this trend of destroying native forests for expansion of non-native GE tree plantations that cannot support wildlife.

USDA Must Apply the Precautionary Principle and Obey Public Opposition
When the petition for the release of GE eucalyptus field trials came out in 2013, public comments were 10,000 to one against their release. The USDA must both heed overwhelming public opposition and apply the Precautionary Principal.

In closing our singular request is to deny ArborGen’s permit to release these dangerous GE eucalyptus, retract all field trials permits, and order the proper cleanup of current field test plots.

Sincerely,

References:
1) http://wrm.org.uy/articles-from-the-wrm-bulletin/section1/monoculture-tree-plantations-in-latin-america-how-why-for-whom/
2) Rachel Smolker: Burning biomass is not carbon neutral https://vtdigger.org/2017/02/06/rachel-smolker-burning-biomass-not-carbon-neutral/
3) Link to USDA APHIS Draft EIS of GE Freeze Tolerant Eucalyptus: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/aphisdocs/11_01901p_peis.pdf
4) Link to documentation of impacts of industrial tree plantations: http://wrm.org.uy/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/EJOLTplantations.pdf
5) USDA APHIS Draft EIS of GE Freeze Tolerant Eucalyptus page 114
6) Eucalyptus: California Icon, Fire Hazard and Invasive Species: https://ww2.kqed.org/science/2013/06/12/eucalyptus-california-icon-fire-hazard-and-invasive-species/
7) According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization between the years 1990 and 2010, the average yield of wood from plantations doubled, yet the amount of land occupied by those plantations increased over 60% from 97 million to 153 million hectares. [http://www.fao.org/docrep/013/i1757e/i1757e.pdf, Table 5.5, page 94]

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Sign the petition to save the U.S. Southeast from becoming ground zero for massive GE tree plantations #SaveOurRoots http://bit.ly/2tugR1R

Massive destructive tree plantations planned- Tell USDA-NO we don’t want GE Trees in the Southeast #SaveOurRoots http://bit.ly/2tugR1R

Help to rein in an out of control timber industry from destroying southern forests Learn more http://bit.ly/2tugR1R #FalseForests #SaveOurRoots

SAVE the Birds & Bats-Deer & Ducks-Bees & Bears from genetically engineered #FalseForests #SaveOurRoots Learn more http://bit.ly/2tugR1R

Genetically engineered trees are a #FalseForests- nothing lives in these plantations but the franken-trees #SaveOurRoots http://bit.ly/2tugR1R

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ArborGen’s freeze tolerant GE eucalyptus can, if this permit is granted begin distribution before fall planting in states from Texas to South Carolina. If this happens, fields and forests across the southeast could be transformed into massive, toxic, GE eucalyptus plantations. #FalseForests #SaveOurRoots Learn more and sign the petition: http://saveourroots.org/the-big-green-lies-frankentrees-a-clear-and-present-danger-to-the-southeast/

Not only is burning trees for energy production not carbon neutral nor clean, the unregulated production of these trees will endanger the biodiversity of our natural forests as water resources are depleted and poisoned. Neighboring communities will also be exposed to large quantities of toxic chemicals used for intensive tree production. #FalseForests #SaveOurRoots Learn more and sign the petition:  http://saveourroots.org/the-big-green-lies-frankentrees-a-clear-and-present-danger-to-the-southeast/

Southeastern Native American and front line rural communities depend on the forests, rivers, swamps and grasslands for cultural resources, and subsistence needs of food and medicine. Encroachment of massive GE tree plantations will have untold negative effects to the surrounding ecosystems. Water tables will be depleted, as eucalyptus requires and aggressively consumes massive amounts of water. #FalseForests #SaveOurRoots Learn more and sign the petition: http://saveourroots.org/the-big-green-lies-frankentrees-a-clear-and-present-danger-to-the-southeast/

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I just learned about the dangers of genetically engineered trees. It’s much worse than it may sound- a leader in the forestry products industry has unnaturally altered a eucalyptus tree to withstand colder temperatures so that it can be widely grown in the southeast U.S. This will transform more than a million of acres of grasslands, swamps, prairies, and natural forested areas to huge tree plantation. Eucalyptus trees are non-native to North America and are highly invasive.

If this non-native and invasive tree is approved for planting in the U.S. southeast it will lead the way for other genetically engineered trees that will threaten the delicate biodiversity across the country. We can’t let this happen!

There’s a lot of information here: http://saveourroots.org/the-big-green-lies-frankentrees-a-clear-and-present-danger-to-the-southeast/ You will be glad that I sent you this alert. Please share with others so we can let the USDA that we don’t want these Franken-Trees to destroy precious habitat for birds and bears alike.

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