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Opinion Letters ‘Franken-trees’ threaten southern forests

While many people are working to address climate change by reducing consumption and protecting biodiversity, ArborGen and other tree biotechnology companies, hope to use the crisis to make a big profit.

In 2010, ArborGen won USDA permission to field-test a quarter million genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees across South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Why? ArborGen hopes to sell billions of their GE Franken-trees for huge bioenergy plantations across the U.S. South. Right now the USDA is holding a public comment period on commercializing GE trees for the first time in U.S. history.

In Florida, eucalyptus is already a documented invasive species. The U.S. Forest Service estimates they would double water use compared with native forests. They also contain oils that make them highly flammable; which is a danger to our drought-stricken states. Because they are so invasive and also explosively flammable, Jim Hightower has called them “living firecrackers.” They have also been called “flammable kudzu.”

There are also industry plans for GE poplar and GE pine trees that could contaminate our native forests with dangerous engineered traits through cross-pollination.

Right now the USDA is accepting public comments on this proposal by ArborGen to commercialize their dangerous and destructive GE trees on their website. I am writing today because I believe GE trees should be banned.

Thomas Llewellyn — Asheville, N.C.


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