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Happy Solstice!

Help us celebrate by protecting forests from the risks of GE Trees by Jan 26! 

NOTE: Thanks to the efforts of a large alliance of groups who demanded an extension of the absurdly short 45 day public comment period on the draft decision by the USDA to allow the unmonitored release of unproven and dangerous GE trees into wild forests, we now have an additional 30 days until January 26th to submit comments here: https://www.regulations.gov/commenton/APHIS-2020-0030-8291

Ceremony: In 2019 Mapuche people re-occupied lands stolen from them by timber companies under the Pinochet Dictatorship. GJEP was privileged to be allowed to photograph this ceremony. Photo Langelle 2019

Action Alert! We need you to tell the USDA that releasing dangerous, unproven and unmonitored GE trees into our forests is a Massive, Irreversible Risk

Deadline 1/26/23 Comment at: https://www.regulations.gov/commenton/APHIS-2020-0030-8291

The wild American Chestnut is Already Rebounding! 

We don’t need the irreversible risks of genetically engineered trees!

On his land in western Maine, naturalist Bernd Heinrich is surrounded by wild American chestnut trees and seedlings.  More than 1,300 of them grow on his land.  Only four of these trees were planted by him, the rest with the help of blue jays and squirrels.

Heinrich, a professor emeritus from the University of Vermont, recently published a new article in Northeastern Naturalist that describes the regeneration of a wild population of American chestnut trees, established from four seed bearing trees planted in western Maine in 1982.” Two surveys in 2019 and 2020 mapped and measured 1348 offspring.

This study is a holiday gift to the forests as it provides clear evidence of a natural revival of the American chestnut tree. We do NOT need dangerous and unpredictable GE trees. In fact, restoring the wild American chestnut has been the goal of the American Chestnut Cooperator’s Foundation (ACCF) whose founders have been making significant progress since the 60s.

“The ACCF has been having great success with their work to bring back a naturally blight resistant American chestnut tree – one that is 100% American chestnut, not a hybrid and certainly not genetically engineered,” said Lois Breault-Melican. Melican is a member of the ACCF and a former Board member of the American Chestnut Foundation, from which she and her husband resigned when the group started promoting genetically engineered American chestnuts. “Dedicated volunteers in the U.S. and Canada have made huge progress in supporting a future for true, wild American chestnuts.”

Deadline 1/26/23 Comment at: https://www.regulations.gov/commenton/APHIS-2020-0030-8291

Additional Information and Sample Comments: 

The US Department of Agriculture has released a draft Environmental Impact Statement that recommends approving the unrestricted planting of genetically engineered (GE) American chestnut trees in wild forests. 

This comes despite the lack of information about the long-term risks to forests, biodiversity, communities or human health. 

If approved, this GE American chestnut tree (known as Darling 58 or D58) would be the first-ever genetically engineered forest tree planted outside field tests in North America. It would also be the first-ever genetically engineered plant released anywhere with the purpose of spreading freely through wild ecosystems. 

If approved, it would unleash a massive, irreversible experiment in our forests.


Sample comments:

(Feel free to use any or all of the following in your public comment submission)

The D58 GE American chestnut threatens forests and biodiversity

  • If the GE AC is released, it will be planted specifically to spread freely through forests. Once it is released in the wild, tracking or reversing its spread would be impossible. Any unexpected occurrence could threaten the ecological health of whole forest ecosystems.
  • The researchers propose to plant GE AC trees in wild forests so that the blight-tolerant GE trees would spread GE pollen and seeds, and cross-pollinate with remaining wild American chestnuts. The GE version of the American chestnut will not restore, but replace the wild American chestnut. The D58 GE American chestnut itself could drive the wild American chestnut into extinction.
  • It is not possible to assess the risks of releasing this GE tree into the wild because we do not know what will happen in highly complex forest ecosystems that are subject to environmental stresses and climate change, especially over multiple generations of American chestnut trees which can live for over 200 years. The long-term impacts of its release on ecosystems are unknown, and likely can never be known.
  • Locating and monitoring all the GE trees and their progeny in our forests will be nearly impossible, especially over a long period of time. In fact, there can be no comprehensive monitoring because the public will be able to freely plant and share the trees. If something goes wrong there will be no way to reverse the problem.
  • Without the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous nations whose territories span the range of the American chestnut, the release of D58 GE American chestnut violates Indigenous sovereignty.
  • D58 GE AC pollen and nuts will spread across borders and jurisdictions. Deregulating the American chestnut in the US will have a direct impact on research taking place in Canada to restore American chestnut populations through conventional breeding.  
  • Existing animal and plant habitat could be disrupted if the D58 replaces other trees, like oaks, that have become established in forests in place of the American chestnut.

Risk Assessments of the D58 GE American chestnut are inadequate

  • Animal species could be harmed by eating GE pollen, nuts, leaves and other parts of the D58 tree. Animal feeding studies on the D58 GE American chestnut, however, did not use the D58, but rather earlier versions of the GE tree that have a lower expression of the GE trait.
  • Feeding studies to examine potential impacts on bees did not use D58 pollen, but non-transgenic chestnut pollen.
  • The data submitted to the USDA for deregulation of the GE American chestnut is insufficient to assess the environmental risks. For example, the D58 trees were only in field trials for three growing seasons.

The GE American chestnut is a Trojan Horse to advance other GE trees for industrial purposes

  • Supporters of the GE American chestnut have called it a “test tree” or “poster child” intended to undermine widespread public opposition to GE trees.
  • Development of the GE American chestnut is tied to industrial profit motives. Monsanto and ArborGen provided early financial and technical support, and Duke Energy, the largest electric power holding company in the US, funded the tree’s development with an eye to future plantations for wood pellets, lumber and forest carbon offsets.

For a detailed examination of the threats and impacts of the D58 GE American chestnut, please download the white paper: Biotechnology for Forest Health, the Test Case of the Genetically Engineered American chestnut https://stopgetrees.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/biotechnology-for-forest-health-test-case-american-chestnut-report-WEB-1.pdf