ACTION NOW! USDA Ready to Approve Widespread, Risky Field Trial of GE Trees

This e-mail arrived in my inbox this week, and it is an urgent call to action regarding genetically-engineered organisms. For those of you who are not familiar with the dangers of using genetically-modified organisms, here is a short list (source, Safe-Food.org):

  • Imprecise Technology—A genetic engineer moves genes from one organism to another. A gene can be cut precisely from the DNA of an organism, but the insertion into the DNA of the target organism is basically random. As a consequence, there is a risk that it may disrupt the functioning of other genes essential to the life of that organism. (Bergelson 1998)
  • Side Effects—Genetic engineering is like performing heart surgery with a shovel. Scientists do not yet understand living systems completely enough to perform DNA surgery without creating mutations which could be harmful to the environment and our health. They are experimenting with very delicate, yet powerful forces of nature, without full knowledge of the repercussions. (Washington Times 1997, The Village Voice 1998)
  • Widespread Crop Failure—Genetic engineers intend to profit by patenting genetically engineered seeds. This means that, when a farmer plants genetically engineered seeds, all the seeds have identical genetic structure. As a result, if a fungus, a virus, or a pest develops which can attack this particular crop, there could be widespread crop failure. (Robinson 1996)
  • Threatens Our Entire Food Supply—Insects, birds, and wind can carry genetically altered seeds into neighboring fields and beyond. Pollen from transgenic plants can cross-pollinate with genetically natural crops and wild relatives. All crops, organic and non-organic, are vulnerable to contamination from cross-pollinatation. (Emberlin et al 1999)

For more information, see link referenced above.

It is our duty as informed citizens to become educated about the issues of genetically-engineered crops and vehemently oppose them. Please read the following message from Center for Food Safety and take action today!

Deadline for this item is July 7, 2009. When you click on “take action” or “Tell a Friend”, please be sure to insert your own information in the boxes before submitting. Thanks for your support!




USDA Poised to Approve Widespread, Risky Field Trial of GE Trees

Dear Raine,

The biotechnology firm ArborGen has asked the USDA for
permission to conduct 29 field trials of genetically engineered
“cold tolerant” eucalyptus trees in the U.S.
For the first
time in history, this massive experiment, which is on the verge
of being green-lighted, will literally be using nature as the
laboratory to test more than 260,000 genetically engineered
trees. Scientists across the U.S. are voicing concerns over this
proposal.

As it did with GE alfalfa, USDA failed to conduct and
prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to
comprehensively address all the relevant issues related to the
proposed eucalyptus field trials.
Scientists at Duke
University in North Carolina have created pollen models that
show tree pollen traveling from a forest in North Carolina for
over 1,000 kilometers northward into eastern Canada. A study
published in the New Physiologist found pine pollen 600
kilometers from the nearest pines. Scientists researching
sterility in trees have admitted that 100 percent guaranteed
sterility in GE trees is impossible. This evidence implies that
if GE trees are released into the environment, widespread and
irreversible contamination of native forests cannot be
prevented.

Contamination of natural trees by GE eucalyptus could pose
a severe environmental threat.
Eucalyptus grow well in warm
climates, so engineering them to tolerate cold temperatures
removes the only barrier to their unrestricted spread. In some
places where eucalyptus have been introduced, they are well
known for escaping and colonizing native ecosystems. For
example, eucalyptus is listed as an invasive species and a
costly plant pest in California. The spread of these plants into
the wild through seeds and plant matter is highly likely, and
the impacts on native ecosystems from this invader are largely
unknown. Additionally, one of the experimental GE tree varieties
is a known host for cryptococcus gatti, a fatal fungal pathogen
whose spores cause meningitis in people and animals.

Despite recent federal court decisions that USDA failed to
address the risk of contamination and other environmental risks
from genetically engineered plants, like GE bentgrass and
alfalfa, USDA seems poised to push ahead with this dangerous
proposal.

A public comment period is open until July 6th, 2009
– please send your comment to USDA APHIS opposing this risky
proposal today!

Send a letter to the following decision maker(s):

Docket No. APHIS-2008-0059

Below is the sample letter:

Subject: Oppose Docket No. APHIS-2008-0059

Dear [decision maker name automatically inserted here],

Docket No. APHIS-2008-0059
Regulatory Analysis and Development
PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8
4700 River Road, Unit 118
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238

Re: USDA/ APHIS Docket No. APHIS-2008-0059

I am strongly opposed to ArborGen’s proposal to conduct 29 field trials of experimental genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in the U.S. (APHIS-2008-0059) for the following reasons:

As it did with GE alfalfa, USDA failed to conduct and prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to comprehensively address all the relevant issues related to the proposed eucalyptus field trials.

Eucalyptus species are introduced organisms into the US and grow well in certain warm climates such as the southern and southeast US regions. The main barrier to Eucalyptus becoming established in this region is that the varieties planted often die in cold temperatures. Genetically engineering them to tolerate those cold temperatures removes that barrier. In other regions, where eucalyptus have been introduced, they are well known for escaping and colonizing native ecosystems. Eucalyptus has become so established in California that it is now listed as an invasive species and a plant pest in the state.

Scientists at Duke University in North Carolina have created pollen models that show tree pollen traveling from a forest in North Carolina for over 1,000 kil
ometers northward into eastern Canada. A study published in the New Physiologist found pine pollen 600 kilometers from the nearest pines. Scientists researching sterility in trees have admitted that 100 percent guaranteed sterility in GE trees is impossible. This evidence implies that if GE trees are released into the environment, widespread and irreversible contamination of native forests cannot be prevented.

Contamination of natural trees by GE eucalyptus could pose a severe environmental threat. The spread of these plants into the wild through seeds and plant matter is highly likely, and the impacts on native ecosystems from this invader are largely unknown. Additionally, one of the experimental GE tree varieties is a known host for cryptococcus gatti, a fatal fungal pathogen whose spores cause meningitis in people and animals.

By the agency’s own admission, there are several varieties of eucalyptus that are naturally cold-tolerant, at least eight of which
could be grown in Southern U.S. states like Alabama. This field trial is not only risky, it is completely unnecessary.

Please deny this request, and require the implementation of a full Environmental Impact Statement.

Sincerely,

Your name

Take Action!
Instructions:


Click here to take action on this issue or choose the “Reply to Sender” option on your email program.

Tell-A-Friend:


Visit the web address below to tell your friends about this.

Tell-a-Friend!

What’s At Stake:

For more information on genetically trees, links to reports, and more, visit the Stop GE Trees Coalition website, a project of the Global Justice Ecology Project

Campaign Expiration Date:


July 7, 2009



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