Update: The USDA has reopened the comment period for their Environmental Assessment of ArborGen's proposal to plant 260,000 genetically engineered eucalyptus trees across the Southern U.S. Comments needed by 18 February to oppose this dangerous and destructive plan. Go to:http://www.thepetitionsite.com/petition/975162590
to sign on to the public comment letter. More information below:
Release of Dangerous Genetically Engineered (GE) Eucalyptus Trees Threatens U.S. Forests/ Communities.
ACTION NEEDED BY 18 February! Tell the USDA NO WAY to ArborGen's Eucalyptus Frankentrees
In an unprecedented move toward commercial large-scale release of GE forest trees in the United States, ArborGen is petitioning the U.S. government for permission to plant an estimated 260,000 flowering GE eucalyptus trees  across seven southern U.S. states in so-called "field trials."
The mass-planting of 260,000 flowering GE eucalyptus trees is a major step toward the unregulated development of large-scale GE eucalyptus plantations in the U.S. ArborGen has also requested permission to develop large-scale commercial plantations of GE cold tolerant eucalyptus across the U.S. South which the USDA has not yet ruled on.
Government approval of GE eucalyptus trees will set a dangerous precedent to allow the release of other experimental GE forest trees, including poplars and pines, that would inevitably and irreversibly contaminate native trees with destructive GE traits, devastating forest ecosystems and wildlife. Once GE trees escape, there is no way to call them back.
The only way to prevent the genetic contamination of forests is to ban the commercial release of GE trees before it is too late.
Tell the USDA that GE cold-tolerant eucalyptus plantations pose an unprecedented threat to U.S. forests, wildlife and communities. Tell them to reject ArborGen's request to plant more than a quarter of a million dangerous invasive GE trees across the Southern U.S. Since these field trials are a concrete step toward unregulated commercial growing of dangerous GE eucalyptus, they must be rejected.
According to ArborGen, eucalyptus is a "fast-growing hardwood tree that is a favorite of the international forest products industry" Globally, forests in tropical and subtropical regions have been decimated for the development of eucalyptus plantations, with devastating results for communities and biodiversity. ArborGen now wants to spread this disaster to new regions with this GE cold-tolerant eucalyptus.
Some of the impacts caused by eucalyptus plantations that now threaten the U.S. include:
* Widespread destruction of native forests: Australian Eucalyptuswere introduced to California in the 1850s and these invasive aliens now grow throughout the state; more than 200 species have been introduced into the U.S. The cold-tolerance trait will allow the disaster of eucalyptus plantations to be expanded into regions that are too cold for conventional eucalyptus--including the U.S. South.
* Uncontrollable wildfires: Raging wildfires in Australia this year, made worse by drought, traveled over 60 miles an hour, devastating wildlife and killing 173 people. The1991 Oakland, CA firestorm, exacerbated by eucalyptus, cost $1.5 billion in damages.
* Loss of fresh water: Eucalyptus trees are fast-growing "water-suckers." They require tremendous amounts of water, threatening to worsen the drought already being experienced in areas of the Southern United States.
* Vast clearcutting of biodiverse forests to grow monoculture plantations of GE Eucalyptus clones;
* Silent forests: Wildlife that cannot use the Eucalyptus for habitat nor food will be lost. Endangered species will be threatened.
* Contamination of soils and groundwater with toxic pesticides used on the plantations, often aerially sprayed;
* Worsening of climate change through the destruction of carbon-rich native forests for carbon-poor plantations.
* Eucalyptus is a known host for the deadly pathogenic fungusCryptococcus Gattii. Originally a tropical fungus, it was recently found around Pacific Northwest Eucalyptus groves, and can kill both humans and wildlife.
 These GE eucalyptus, a hybrid of Eucalyptus grandis XEucalyptus urophylla, are engineered to tolerate colder temperatuves, produce less of the structural polymer lignin, and digest some of their own RNA in the hope of reducing fertility (a Terminator-type genetic technology). The permits, if granted, would also allow the GE trees to flower. Eucalyptus thrives in tropical to sub-tropical conditions, but ArborGen's cold-tolerant Eucalyptus would allow growth in the Southern United States, which experience occasional winter freezes. The states targeted for field trials are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas. Note: in 2007 ArborGen was given permission to allow 1.1 acres of GE eucalyptus to flower. This was expanded to 7.6 acres with no public input. This means ArborGen could receive permission to expand these 330 acres of field trials after the fact.
 The number 260,000 is based on the number of trees ArborGen reported to the USDA, which was recorded in the USDA's Environmental Assessment.
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