To Whom It May Concern,
I demand that all petitions by GE tree company ArborGen to plant or sell their genetically engineered eucalyptus trees be rejected. In addition, I demand that all petitions to release dangerous GE trees into the environment be rejected as they are inherently destructive and the full extent of their social and ecological risks has not been assessed.
Further, I demand that all such plantings of GE trees be banned outright.
According to Rubicon–one of the companies that jointly founded ArborGen–if granted permission to sell these dangerous GE eucalyptus trees, ArborGen plans to sell half a billion GE eucalyptus seedlings annually for planting in huge industrial plantations across the US South from Texas to South Carolina.
Eucalyptus trees are introduced organisms in the U.S. and are documented as invasive pests in parts of California and Florida. The cold tolerance trait could vastly expand the range of this GE eucalyptus tree–and hence enhance its ability to invade native ecosystems. Experience in California and other parts of the world has clearly demonstrated that when eucalyptus escape, it is next to impossible to eradicate them.
Court decisions on genetically engineered perennial organisms including GE bentgrass and GE alfalfa, demonstrate a growing legal foundation around the potential escape of perennial GE organisms, even in field trials.
In addition, 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 existing 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.”
In dry regions or areas where droughts occur, eucalyptus are at high risk of catching fire. Wildfires in Oakland California in 1991 and in Australia in 2009, both fueled by eucalyptus trees, killed scores of people and caused billions in losses.
The fatal fungal pathogen, Crytococcus 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 and foolhardy.
ArborGen’s petition must be rejected and all of their GE eucalyptus field trials removed before it is too late.