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Media Advisory, 12 March 2013
USDA Begins Deregulation Process for First Genetically Engineered Forest Tree
Washington, DC – On 22 February, the US Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced a notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) regarding a petition to deregulate [legalize] the commercial sale of the first genetically engineered forest tree in the US, a freeze tolerant eucalyptus tree.
This GE eucalyptus EIS represents the first time APHIS has prepared a full EIS on a genetically engineered plant without being forced to by litigation.  It is only the fourth time that APHIS has prepared an EIS for any GE plant.  Previously the agency was forced by litigation to prepare an EIS for alfalfa, beets and bentgrass.   
The fact that APHIS is voluntarily preparing this EIS indicates that the agency is aware of both the potentially severe environmental impacts these GE trees will have and the overwhelming public opposition to them. In the agency’s history, however, APHIS has never rejected an industry request to deregulate a GE plant.   
Eucalyptus trees are not native to the US and are a documented invasive species.  They are also highly flammable and known to deplete ground water.  The freeze tolerant GE eucalyptus trees will be able to survive in regions too cold for their non-GE relatives.
APHIS has initiated a sixty-day public comment period on the 580 page GE eucalyptus deregulation petition, which ends on 29 April.  This comment period includes two online public meetings on the GE eucalyptus trees on Wednesday, 17 April from 7:00-9:00 PM EDT, and Thursday, 18 April from 4:00-6:00 PM EDT. The registration form for these meetings can be found at  www.APHISVirtualMeetings.com.
The public may provide written comments here.
Global Justice Ecology Project and the STOP GE Trees Campaign are mobilizing the public to submit comments opposing the dangerous commercial release of genetically engineered freeze-tolerant eucalyptus trees.  The Campaign is working with organizations from across the Southeast on a series of events and protests directed at the upcoming Tree Biotechnology 2013 Conference in Asheville, NC from 26 May to 1 June 2013.
For more information contact:
Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project, +1.716.931.5833 (office) +1.802.578.0477 (mobile) globalecology@gmavt.net