USDA to Approve Drought-Causing GMO Eucalyptus Trees
In 2011, the USDA approved a request by genetic engineering tree company ArborGen to release 260,000 genetically modified eucalyptus trees. The USDA has since approved two permits for “limited” releases of GMO eucalyptus trees. Now in 2017, the USDA has signaled they are prepared to approve the commercial sale of these GMO trees across the United States.
This is taking place despite science that shows the invasive tree species promotes droughts and interferes with pine forest growth.
Invasive eucalyptus to spread across U.S.?
ArborGen has already been allowed to release the GE eucalyptus trees in gigantic swaths of land within Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas. Unbelievably, these are the states that have also been hit hard by droughts and raging wildfires.
After the USDA received a permit application in 2011, the USDA began its environmental impact studies. Attorneys from the Center for Food Safety, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Dogwood Alliance filed action against the USDA in 2011 to fight the release.
The USDA rejected a 2011 settlement with these and other citizen groups opposing the release. The court ordered a mediation to settle the case. On June 22, 2011, the USDA refused to accept a settlement. The USDA continued its environmental impact study and in 2012, it announced no significant impact. However, the USDA still remained concerned about the ability of the tree to spread uncontrolled. According to the USDA’s 2012 statement:
“APHIS also concludes that the strict permit conditions imposed by APHIS will effectively limit the reproductive capabilities and establishment of this GE Eucalyptus outside the confined field trial locations, and reduce the possibility of unintended exposure from moving GE Eucalyptus trees.”
Eucalyptus trees can live for 250 years or more. Is the USDA really sure that ArbroGen will even be around a century from now to continue to control the tree’s spread throughout the U.S.?
Now the USDA is recommending approval for commercial release of the eucalyptus trees. The USDA is inviting comments through July 5, 2017.
Eucalyptus worsens drought conditions
California researchers have continued to hypothesize that the invasive spread of eucalyptus trees throughout California has helped promoted California’s drought.
But after a worsening drought in China was blamed on invasive eucalyptus trees, researchers have confirmed that eucalyptus trees encourage increased water evaporation.
The technical term is evapotranspiration. Researchers from the Nanchang Institute of Technology conducted a 2017 study showing that eucalyptus tree plantations in China have increased drought conditions throughout regions where the eucalyptus plantations exist. The evapotranspiration process of these tree species was repeatedly found among the tree plantations. Not only did the plantations use more than 50 percent of the annual rainfall, but the trees allowed for faster soil evaporation of water moisture. The researchers stated:
“Sustainable management strategies should be implemented to reduce water consumption in Eucalyptus plantations in the context of future climate change scenarios such as drought and warming.”
Eucalyptus trees also create wildfire conditions because their bark and leaves are particularly dry and they litter the ground with kindling. This has proven the case in Australia’s wildfires in 2009, where hundreds of millions of acres of the trees burned out of control for many months.
They also produce drought conditions because their roots dive incredibly deep and drink water from underground drinking water aquifers. This fact has been proven by plantations in the Lumaco District of Chile. Here indigenous Mapuche communities have run out of water after eucalyptus plantations spring up around their settlements.
Eucalyptus interfere with pine forests
Eucalyptus trees have also been shown to intrude upon pine forests, as they aggressively mark their territories with their oil-rich leaf droppings. For this reason, the state of California has spent many years and resources trying to fight off the invasion of eucalyptus species.
The tree species also commonly hosts a fungus, Cryptococcus gattii, which has poisoned forests in the Pacific Northwest, and also infected people.
The genetically modified version that ArborGen is planting is called “cold-tolerant.” This of course produces a more aggressive and more resilient version of the already-invasive tree species.
It is quite unbelievable that the USDA would succumb to such an approval. Concerned citizens are advised to get involved at the Action Network.