The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service APHIS has received a petition (APHIS Petition Number 11-019-01p) from ArborGen Inc. of Summerville, SC, seeking a determination of nonregulated status of two Freeze Tolerant Eucalyptus (FTE) lines designated 427 and 435.
APHIS is calling for comments from the public until the 29th of April 2013:
Environmental groups across the country have raised serious concerns about the impact of genetically engineered eucalyptus plantations.Eucalyptus trees are not native to the Americas and are considered an invasive species.
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.
“GE eucalyptus trees are a disaster waiting to happen – it is critical the USDA rejects 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.”
“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.
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.
Stop GE Trees campaign