Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Genetically Engineered TREES?

Not something I had thought of before.

But a newsletter from the Organic Consumers Association crossed my desk today, and one of their highlighted articles referred to an NPR story:

Web Program of the Week: NPR Reports on Controversy Surrounding Genetically Engineered Trees

Their quote of the week is from Anne Petermann of the Global Justice Ecology Project "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. 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."

So... raise a field (forest?) of genetically modified trees and they WILL seed themselves across North America. Okay. hmmm.

Reading onward:

"A Quarter Million Experimental "Frankentrees" to Be Grown in U.S

The USDA is currently taking public comments on whether or not the company ArborGen should be allowed to conduct 29 field trials of genetically engineered "cold tolerant" eucalyptus trees in the U.S.

[My comment... there is probably a very good reason why Nature designed the Eucalyptus species to be intolerant of subfreezing temperatures. After all, I live in the land of kudzu. Important plants are NOT always benign.]

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 frankentrees. Scientists across the U.S. are voicing concerns over this proposal including:

-The USDA failed to do an Environmental Impact Statement to assess potential negative issues related to the proposed field trials.
-The spread of the these plants into the wild through seeds and plant matter is highly likely, and the impacts on native ecosystems from this invader are unknown
.-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.

Comments are being accepted by the USDA until July 6, 2009.

Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to to submit or view comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically. (Docket ID is APHIS-2008-0059)*

Postal Mail/Commercial delivery: Please send two copies of your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2008-0059, Regualtory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your comment refers to Docket No. APHIS-2008-0059.

For more information on this topic, please visit the Organic Consumers website.

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