The Biotech Industry is at it. Again. Trying to ruin our planet in spite of greed.
Call me a tree hugger if you want but I personally would rather be a tree hugger than a greedy, evil CEO of a biotech company trying to genetically engineer trees.
If you haven’t already heard, two Biotech companies by the name of ArborGen and FuturaGene are trying to earn the approval to plant genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in the south east region of the U.S. and in Brazil.
“ArborGen is genetically engineering non-native eucalyptus trees to be freeze tolerant to feed ethanol refineries and biomass burners under the umbrella of climate mitigation,” said Anne Petermann, executive director of Global Justice Ecology Project. “They want to convert biodiverse and carbon-rich forests into vast plantations of invasive, flammable and water-draining eucalyptus trees. This will be a disaster for the climate.”
FrankenTrees Have Some History
This is not the first time FrankenTree has appeared! In 1988 the first field trials for genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant Poplars began in Belgium. By 1999, GE tree trials were happening at over 116 sites in 17 countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, UK, USA and Uruguay. (source) Of course these trials were funded by companies like Monsanto, International Paper, Fletcher Challenge Forests and the Westvaco Corporation.
Don’t think for one second that these tree trials were created to make positive changes for our eco-systems and forest habitats. Increased profit margins was (and always will be) the biotech’s main motive.
What Will The FrankenTrees Special Talent Be?
These trees would be engineered to produce their own pesticides, grow straighter and faster, tolerate manufactured pesticides, produce sterile seeds, and reduce lignin content (this is what is in a tree to make it strong enough to stand up). (source)
For example, a genetically engineered pine tree may be engineered to not grow any pine cones. Pine cones provide food for many animals. Without the pine cones, how will the animals survive? A GE pine tree may also be herbicide resistant so companies can spray toxic chemicals to kill all possible undergrowth. While the undergrowth may be a nuisance to lumber and paper companies, undergrowth is essential to many types of wildlife. Many animals spend their entire lives on the forest floor and depend on things like pine cones and undergrowth for survival.
How is a forest supposed to thrive when you take out the necessary things needed to live?
FrankenTrees are Monocultures
Biotech industries claim the planting of these GE trees are “reforesting” but this is far from the truth. Genetically engineered trees are replacing our native forests and are simply the next step of industrial agriculture. Monocultures result in the extermination of ecosystems, soil, water and the communities living in and with these ecosystems. (source)
Eucalyptus trees are already known as “ecological deserts” and genetically engineering them will only further this problem.
FrankenTree Is A Water Hog Too
Eucalyptus trees are already a nuisance and have run wild across California and Florida. What makes these trees no good for the environment is their need of water… lots of water.
The U.S. Forest Service stated that large-scale plantings of eucalyptus lower water tables, and affect groundwater recharge and local stream flows, in some cases eliminating seasonal streams. This is of particular concern in light of existing drought conditions in parts of the South. They state, “[eucalyptus] water use is at least 2-fold greater than most other native forests in the southeastern US.” (source)
I can only imagine what kind of water the FrankenTree will need. Doesn’t this sound like a disaster to you?
The Ultimate Danger of Frankentrees
Probably the gravest danger of these Frankentrees is the risk of cross contamination. Trees are different than agricultural GE crops because they live much longer in the wild (sometimes centuries). Because of this, the long term effects would be hard to track. By the time we can figure out how to effectively track the effects of this GM gene, it may already be too late and the damage may already be done.
Pines and Poplars have been known to spread their pollen and seeds great distances which is bad news for any kind of native forest that may surround GE tree plantations. Knowing this, it is not the case of “if” cross contamination will occur, it’s the question of when it will because it is inevitable that the trees will evolve and find ways to reproduce (especially since some trees are asexual). Just take a look at the renegade GE wheat in Oregon — a true testament that there is no way to control these FrankenSeeds.
Eucalyptus trees are already invasive and non-native to the States. In California and other parts of the world, eucalyptus trees have taken over and it is next to impossible to eradicate them. When FrankenTrees multiply by cross-contamination, how will we control them?
The Biotech’s “Solution” To Preventing Cross-Contamination
The biotech industry realized contamination could be of risk so they created a “solution” to the problem (does this sound familiar anyone??). Their solution is called the “Terminator Gene.” The Terminator Gene was designed so it makes all of the seeds and pollen from FrankenTree sterile.
Just like the issue regarding genetically engineered salmon being sterile, there is no way that every single one of those FrankenSeeds will have successfully become unable to produce. There is bound to be a small percentage that is fertile. Unfortunately, in a blink of an eye, that one fertile seed can contaminate a nearby (or far away) forest and wreak havoc on the ecosystem within that forest.
A sterile forest will produce no seeds, no fruit, no undergrowth, no flowers, no pollen, nothing. The forest will have no biodiversity and it will have detrimental effects on everything around it.
How many red flags must one see before actually halting the production and doing the right thing??
What You Can Do
Unfortunately, you can not just sit around and hope for something good to happen.
If you want to help make your voice be heard, please click on the link below to sign the petition telling the USDA that GE freeze tolerant eucalyptus plantations pose an unprecedented threat to forests and wildlife in the US and around the world.
Take action here.
Life, nature, trees — they are all sacred and are all interconnected. Sure, there have been advances with our technologies but sacred things should be respected by remaining untouched and inviolable.
Sometimes it’s difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that people want to destroy such beautiful things that inhabit our world. A single tree can live hundreds of years and experience so many different changes around them. They have history. They support many different creatures including ourselves. They are living things. Why change them? They are beautiful just the way they are and they surely do not need any kind of manipulations done by man. Period.
I do my best to not get discouraged and continue to have faith in the part of humanity who understand that some things in life should remain untouched. It’s hard to keep the faith but if everyone simply gave up at the first sign of something difficult then no one would believe in anything. I believe good will overcome the bad, even when times look the darkest. However, I believe we need to be proactive, now. We need to continue to do everything we can to protect these sacred things even if it just means forwarding someone information about it. If we stop now, they will win. And quite frankly, I am not ready to just give up and let greed destroy these beautiful creations. I want my son to have the opportunity to walk in a forest and absorb all the wonderful energy that these trees produce. I want our ecosystems to thrive.
The biotech industry is moving in very high speed — there’s no doubt about that. It seems every day they are trying to create something new and manipulate nature to work on their terms. I’m sorry “Biotech People” but this is not the way things are supposed to be. We can not expect for nature — that has evolved and been around much longer than we can even fathom — to play nicely and on our terms. It just doesn’t work that way.
If I could ask the CEO’s of these biotech companies one question, it would be: “What is the rush to apply these technologies we’re only beginning to understand?” This science is new and we have no idea what will really happen when we apply these genetic modifications — especially long term. And if these genetic modifications have negative affects on our ecosystems, there will be no turning back. Why do we feel we need to play this “higher power” that can “feed the world” and “sustain the industry” (paper, food, whatever)?
Why does the solution have to always include the profits of benefiting the multi-billion dollar corporations? Why is humanity letting this happen?