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Urgent Action Alert: Help Us STOP GMO Eucalyptus Trees! January 26, 2010

Posted by angryscientist in Bad Science, Uncategorized, Whistleblower Corner.
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This action alert is from the Global Justice Ecology Project

Urgent 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 are needed by 18 February to oppose this dangerous and destructive plan. Click Here 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 [1] across seven southern U.S. states in so-called “field trials.”[2]

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.

TAKE ACTION!
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.

Sign on to the STOP GE Trees Campaign’s Comments to the U.S. government

and

Have your organization become a STOP GE Trees Campaign partner and endorse our goal of a global ban on GE trees! For more information about the STOP GE Trees Campaign, click here

Background:
According to ArborGen, eucalyptus is a “fast-growing hardwood tree that is a favorite of the international forest products industry”[3] 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 Eucalyptus were 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 fungus Cryptococcus Gattii. Originally a tropical fungus, it was recently found around Pacific Northwest Eucalyptus groves, and can kill both humans and wildlife.

SUBMIT COMMENTS TO THE U.S. GOVERNMENT OPPOSING GE EUCALYPTUS PLANTATIONS

Download our 10 page report on the dangers of GE trees and wood-based agrofuels

To Read the USDA’s revised Environmental Assessment, click here

NOTES:
[1] These GE eucalyptus, a hybrid of Eucalyptus grandis X Eucalyptus 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), though this new EA admits that some fertile seeds have been produced by the existing 1 acre field trial of flowering GE eucalyptus. 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.

[2] 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.

[3] See http://www.arborgen.com/eucalyptus2.php

For more details on the dangers of GE trees, view A Silent Forest, the GE trees documentary narrated by Dr. David Suzuki, which is posted on our blog, Climate Connections

GJEP also sent this as an e-mail, asking to please forward widely. This must be an example of what Obama called advanced biofuel technology. What a crock. The environmental movement doesn’t need friends like Obama. When he talks about putting science back in its rightful place, this sort of mad scientist’s wet dream is what he means. If anyone thinks that’s going too far, what about his other pet fantasies, clean coal and safe nuclear power? This nonsense just gives science a bad name. When the name of the game is profit, true science becomes an obstacle to be suppressed or mocked. Those who care about the consequences get derided as Luddites or hysterical wackos. This world has come to a sad state, when what is promoted as scientific progress has nothing to do with sound science or truth, and everything to do with making money. Environmentalists, wake up! This Administration is chock full of greenwashers, not environmentally conscious, not by any stretch of the imagination!

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Comments»

1. ishtarmuz - February 16, 2010

So let me get this straight, we are making these trees more tolerant to nonnative environments when we know they are water suckers and fire hazards, and we are putting them in parts of the country that have little water and frequent fires. How do you spell blind greed? G-M-O.

We also know, and are ignoring, the CA experience with these trees that they do not perform as timber in the same way as the old stands in Australia do. How do you spell short sighted? G-M-O. Or are we saying that the timber industry is really going to wait a hundred years for these “fast” going trees?

In that hundred years, as CA is busy tearing up their trees for the above reasons, what damage will these trees do to the local habitat which has no flora or fauna to help these tree find a niche? That is other than the deadly fungus that was imported with them.

The spread of the deadly fungus itself that was originally imported with the trees in 1850 should give ArboGen litigious pause. Or is that the game? After they bankrupt, their “friend” Monsanto rushes in as a hero and buys up their company and their patents, and then plants the GMO poplar and pine. Or is it just that Monsanto has this unused fungicide formula that it wants to apply to fungicide ready Eucalyptus seeds?

This is not only bad science, but unethical business, practice at its finest.

http://ishtarmuz.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/why-monsanto-an-ex-chemical-company-now-a-biotech-company-is-evil/

2. The Other “Party of No” : Red, Green, and Blue - February 25, 2010

[…] opposition to this test has arisen from the expected set of environmental groups who uniformly oppose any application of biotechnology to crops.  These are […]

3. angryscientist - February 25, 2010

The above pingback was left by a greenwasher who linked to this post. He thinks I’m part of a anti-technology, anti-science, anti-innovation cadre. I left him a brief rebuttal to his argument in favor of this experiment, but my comment seems to have disappeared.

4. Steve Savage - February 25, 2010

No, your comment is posted. I was just eating dinner. It is approved and I have responded (I always approve all comments on my blog regardless of the opinion expressed).
Steve Savage

5. angryscientist - May 13, 2010

Well, the USDA decided there’s no problem with this experiment, giving ArborGen the green light. I guess Obama’s advanced biofuels program will proceed full speed ahead. It figures, after that travesty of a climate bill was released by the Senate, that industry will get to try out its harebrained schemes in the name of combating climate change. There is no integrity in science any more. When nuclear power and GMO trees are touted as solutions to global warming, science has been turned on its head; the mad scientists are running amok, their blind arrogance and greed trampling any regard for prudence, rationality, or truth. The Global Justice Ecology Project issued a press release today about the bad news.

6. steve Savage - May 13, 2010

Angry,
Well, it seems that reason has prevailed and a very well controlled experiment will happen. We might get an alternative energy gain. Lets see how it works out.

7. angryscientist - May 14, 2010

Yup, that’s the standard line of scientists for hire. Reason has prevailed and this experiment will be very well controlled. Hogwash, or should I say greenwash? The facts the industry and the asleep at the switch regulators ignore are, there is nothing well controlled in genetic engineering technology, since the principle that the results of altering DNA are predictable is full of holes, and we need to phase out burning carbon in any form ASAP. What, do you believe in clean coal and safe nuclear power too?

steve Savage - May 15, 2010

Well, I have no problem being employable – that is sort of why I went to school. If you think there is nothing “controlled” in genetic engineering technology then I assume you are much more angry about traditional breeding where thousands of genes are involved but no one knows what they are. There are mutations, crossing over, transposons and epigenetic events in the mix. Compared to that GE is extremely controlled

I’m not a fan of clean coal, but Western Europe has demonstrated safe nuclear for decades. There is a nuclear plant about 10 miles from my house and I don’t worry about it at all

8. angryscientist - May 16, 2010

You’re a funny guy, Steve. Do you always cherrypick words to twist around other people’s points? I said nothing well controlled, which means something quite different than nothing controlled, wouldn’t you think? Traditional breeders never tried to take over the seed market, or mix genes from completely unrelated species. That’s wishful thinking, that genetic engineering is well controlled. The genome project proved there isn’t enough genetic variation to explain all the variations in humans if one gene is assumed to code for one protein, the general principle upon which genetic engineering has to depend. That means unwanted results should be expected. You’re familiar with Murphy’s Law, I presume. No matter. Your sympathies are obvious and your blind faith in industry touching. It’s too bad that blind faith is so misplaced, and the consequences of people in power like Obama sharing that faith, believing industry’s self-serving spin represents science, are so tragic.

You may not be worried about your radioactivity spewing neighbor, but you should be. Safe nuclear power is an oxymoron. Next you’ll be telling me, like a security guard at a local hospital lately, that there’s no reason to be concerned about those full-body X-ray scanners. I told her I’d rather be strip searched. Ionizing radiation breaks organic chemical bonds like a hot knife cuts butter. You think that’s nothing to worry about? I suppose you don’t believe there really are cancer clusters surrounding every nuclear power plant; that’s just more silly scare tactics of environmentalist wackos like me, right?

9. steve Savage - May 16, 2010

Angry,
I didn’t mean to “cherrypick” or “twist” anything. I stick by my point that traditional breeding has no idea what it is doing on a gene by gene point of view.

As for what you call my “blind faith” in industry – I have no such faith. I’m interested in positive change for agriculture and I’m keenly aware of the barriers to such change. Look at these blog posts to see what I advocate:

http://eatdrinkbetter.com/2010/01/08/a-virtual-tour-of-tomorrows-super-sustainable-farm-part-1/

http://eatdrinkbetter.com/2010/01/08/a-virtual-tour-of-tomorrows-super-sustainable-farm-part-2/#more-2722

Also, I’d like to stay in communication with you even though we disagree on so many things. My email is savage.sd@gmail.com.

Steve

10. angryscientist - May 16, 2010

…traditional breeding has no idea what it is doing on a gene by gene point of view.

Yeah, so what? That’s not the point of traditional breeding. It is the point of GMO technology, but the predictability of the results of altering genes with that technology leaves a lot to be desired.

Regarding your articles you just linked, would those “actually quite benign chemical herbicides” include Roundup? Don’t make me laugh. Most scientists might agree with what you call positive change for agriculture. Bill Gates goes so far as to accuse people opposed to GMO technology of condemning poor Africans to starve, as if that’s the only alternative, and of course the purveyors like to wrap themselves in a green cloak, to counter the bad publicity they’re getting from those diehard environmentalist wackos. Some of those techniques are better than standard practices, no doubt, but no-till farming and using cover crops predate modern agriculture.

I noted another story linked to your articles, Do Glyphosate-Resistant Weeds Pose a Problem for Farmers Using Roundup? Well, duh! So the proposed solution is to engineer resistance to another herbicide. Why am I not surprised. Where does the vicious circle end?

The people of Colombia have a different view of glyphosate, being used there to destroy the coca farms. This is excerpted from an old article in Rachel’s Environment and Health News

Echoes of Vietnam (Colombia)
by Rachel Massey

…Representatives of Colombian indigenous communities recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to explain how they have been affected by spraying that has already occurred. Glyphosate, they said, kills more than drug crops — it also kills food crops that many rural Colombians depend on for survival. In some places, the spraying has killed fish and livestock and has contaminated water supplies. One photograph from a sprayed area shows a group of banana trees killed by herbicides; nearby a plot of coca plants remains untouched. Sometimes the spray also lands on schoolyards or people’s homes. Many Colombians say they have become ill as a result.

According to the NEW YORK TIMES, in one case several spray victims traveled 55 miles by bus to visit a hospital. The doctor who treated them said their symptoms included dizziness, nausea, muscle and joint pain, and skin rashes. “We do not have the scientific means here to prove they suffered pesticide poisoning, but the symptoms they displayed were certainly consistent with that condition,” he said. A nurse’s aide in the local clinic said she had been instructed “not to talk to anyone about what happened here.”

The U.S. State Department denies that there are human health effects from spraying glyphosate on the Colombian countryside. A U.S. embassy official in Colombia told the NEW YORK TIMES that glyphosate is “less toxic than table salt or aspirin” and said the spray victims’ accounts of adverse effects were “scientifically impossible.” A question-and-answer fact sheet published by the State Department says that glyphosate does not “harm cattle, chickens, or other farm animals,” is not “harmful to human beings,” and will not contaminate water. The fact sheet asks the question, “If glyphosate is so benign, why are there complaints of damage from its use in Colombia?” and answers: “These reports have been largely based on unverified accounts provided by farmers whose illicit crops have been sprayed. Since their illegal livelihoods have been affected by the spraying, these persons do not offer objective information about the program…. ”

But medical reports link exposure to glyphosate herbicides with short-term symptoms including blurred vision, skin problems, heart palpitations, and nausea. Studies have also found associations with increased risk of miscarriages, premature birth, and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Formulations in which glyphosate is combined with other ingredients can be more acutely toxic than glyphosate alone. Monsanto, a major manufacturer of glyphosate-based herbicides, was challenged by the Attorney General of New York State for making safety claims similar to those now being repeated by the U.S. State Department. In an out-of-court settlement in 1996, Monsanto agreed to stop advertising the product as “safe, non-toxic, harmless or free from risk.”

Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, a vocal critic of the “drug war” military aid, visited Colombia last week. During his visit he was treated to a demonstration of aerial crop eradication, in the course of which the Colombian National Police managed to spray Senator Wellstone himself with herbicides. According to the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, this accident occurred shortly after the U.S. Embassy in Colombia circulated materials explaining that the spray was guided by “precise geographical coordinates” calculated by computer. Colombian police said the accident had occurred because the wind blew the herbicide off course.

Both common sense and scientific studies tell us that wind can be expected to blow aerially sprayed chemicals off course. For example, a 1992 study in Canada calculated that a buffer zone of 75 to 1200 meters (243 to 3900 feet) could be needed to protect non-target vegetation from damage during aerial spraying of glyphosate. And a 1985 article on glyphosate says, “damage due to drift is likely to be more common and more severe with glyphosate than with other herbicides.”

Actually quite benign, isn’t it?

11. angryscientist - June 10, 2010

I found this thanks to an e-mail alert from the Global Justice Ecology Project.
Paper industry tests genetically altered trees
The paper industry is behind this tomfoolery? I might have known. All this time I thought this was for biofuels, which would be bad enough! There’s no need to use wood for paper, let alone wood from engineered trees! Goddamnit, this pisses me off.

Paper industry tests genetically altered trees
By MITCH STACY (AP) – 2 days ago

TAMPA, Fla. — The commercial paper industry’s plans to plant forests of genetically altered eucalyptus trees in seven Southern states have generated more cries from critics worried that such a large introduction of a bioengineered nonnative plant could throw natural ecosystems out of whack.

ArborGen, a biotechnology venture affiliated with three large paper companies, got U.S. Department of Agriculture approval last month for field trials involving as many as 250,000 trees planted at 29 sites during the next few years. Much smaller lots of the genetically altered trees have been growing in some of the states for years.

Australian eucalyptus trees grow faster than native hardwoods and produce high-quality pulp perfect for paper production, but thus far, they have been able to thrive only in very warm climates. South Carolina-based ArborGen genetically altered the trees to withstand freezing temperatures, and the idea with the test forests is to see how far north they can now be grown.

Thanks to President Obama for his efforts to Restore Scientific Integrity in Government Decision Making What a load of bunk. This is what I’d expect from George Bush, but I should know better than to think Democrats have a clue about how deep the corruption in science goes. Maybe they do, but their corporate ties ensure they won’t do a damn thing about it.

12. angryscientist - June 17, 2010

Here’s some more troubling information about glyphosate, from an interview of Don Huber, recently retired emeritus professor of plant pathology at Purdue University.

Scientist warns of dire consequences with widespread use of glyphosate
By Ken Roseboro, ed.
The Organic and Non-GMO Report, Posted June 14, 2010

The widespread use of glyphosate is causing negative impacts on soil and plants as well as possibly animal and human health. These are key findings of Don Huber, emeritus professor of plant pathology, Purdue University.

Compromise agricultural sustainability, animal and human health

In a paper published in the European Journal of Agronomy in October 2009, Huber and co-author G.S. Johal, from Purdue’s department of botany and plant pathology, state that the widespread use of glyphosate that we see today in agriculture in the United States can “significantly increase the severity of various plant diseases, impair plant defense to pathogens and diseases, and immobilize soil and plant nutrients rendering them unavailable for plant use.” Further, the authors state that glyphosate stimulates the growth of fungi and enhances the virulence of pathogens such as Fusarium and “can have serious consequences for sustainable production of a wide range of susceptible crops.” The authors warn “ignoring potential non-target detrimental side effects of any chemical, especially used as heavily as glyphosate, may have dire consequences for agriculture such as rendering soils infertile, crops non-productive, and plants less nutritious. To do otherwise might well compromise not only agricultural sustainability, but also the health and well-being of animals and humans.”

Please tell me about your research with glyphosate.

Don Huber: I have been doing research on glyphosate for 20 years. I began noticing problems when I saw a consistent increase in “take-all” (a fungal disease that impacts wheat) where glyphosate had been applied in a previous year for weed control. I tried to understand why there was an increase in disease with glyphosate.

I found that glyphosate has an effect on reducing manganese in plants, which is essential to many plant defense reactions that protect plants from disease and environmental stress. Glyphosate can immobilize plant nutrients such as manganese, copper, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc so they are no longer nutritionally functional.

Glyphosate kills weeds by tying up essential nutrients needed to keep plant defenses active. Glyphosate doesn’t kill weeds directly but shuts down their defense mechanisms so pathogens in the soil can mobilize and kill the weeds. Glyphosate completely weakens the plant, making it susceptible to soil borne fungal pathogens.

That is one reason why we see an increase in plant diseases. Glyphosate causes plants to be more susceptible and greatly stimulates the virulence of pathogens that kill plants.

Proponents of glyphosate say it is environmentally benign. Would you agree with that assessment?

DH: Absolutely not. That’s an outright mistaken notion. Glyphosate is the single most important agronomic factor predisposing some plants to both disease and toxins. These toxins can produce a serious impact on the health of animals and humans.

Toxins produced can infect the roots and head of the plant and be transferred to the rest of the plant. The toxin levels in straw can be high enough to make cattle and pigs infertile.

In your paper you say that “the introduction of such an intense mineral chelator as glyphosate into the food chain through accumulation in feed, forage, and food, and root exudation into ground water, could pose significant health concerns for animals and humans and needs further evaluation.” Could you elaborate on this?

DH: Micronutrients such as manganese, copper, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc are essential to human health. All of them can be reduced in availability by glyphosate; mineral nutrients are less in glyphosate treated plants. We are seeing a reduction in nutrient quality (in food crops).

There are also reports of allergic reactions, such as stomach lesions, produced by the Roundup Ready (genetically modified) gene.

These reactions need to be studied; there needs to be a lot more information that we don’t have. This type of research has been prevented by a lack of access to information.

Actually quite benign, isn’t all of this? No wonder Monsanto stymies independent research on its designer crops. It has a lot to hide.


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