The Soil & Health Association is calling for a ban on New Zealand exports of genetically engineered (GE) organisms.
The intended growing in the United States of 260,000 GE eucalyptus trees from New Zealand has been described as “Irresponsible, Dangerous, and Stupid,” by Jim Hightower, a U.S. national commentator who broadcasts daily radio commentaries carried by more than 150 commercial and public stations, as well as on the web. He was also twice elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner. (1,2,3)
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which initially recommended approval of the large GE tree plantings is currently considering the submissions to the forestry biotech company ArborGen’s application.
“This has happened with practically no media coverage or public participation. It is happening solely because a handful of global speculators hope to profit by making ethanol from cellulose-enhanced eucalyptus – never mind that their self-aggrandizement would put America’s native forests in danger of irreversible contamination by these destructive, invasive Frankentrees,” said Hightower.
“It is a double standard to be exporting very risky products, such as GE eucalyptus trees, most of which are intended to be allowed to flower and set seed. We all know the same trees would be unacceptable planted in New Zealand,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.
“The double standard is being recognised overseas and further GE exports from New Zealand will continue to erode our clean green 100% Pure NZ brand. Those opposed to the GE trees are the very consumers identified as the best value international market for New Zealand produce over the next two decades. They want wellness, GE free, sustainably produced, animal friendly, and fair traded products.”
Nearly 17,500 public comments, including some from New Zealand, were sent to the USDA opposing its recommendation for approval of ArborGen’s proposal. The USDA received only 39 favourable comments. If allowed, the plantings would take place on 330 acres of land across seven states in the Southern U.S., to supposedly trial future biofuel production. Soil & Health submitted against the USDA recommendation (4).
“The irony is that eucalypts, release soil carbon through their nutrient uptake, losing more carbon from the soil than they take from the atmosphere, and as such negate much of the point of biofuels. Not only will the GE trees be very risky as an invasive fire promoting GE weed, but they will also contribute to the human component of climate change,” said Mr Browning.
The 260,000 GE eucalypts were grown in New Zealand by Horizon 2, which is based in ArborGen’s Australasian headquarters near Te Teko in the Bay of Plenty. Rubicon, effectively old New Zealand company Fletcher Forests, is in turn a third of ArborGen. (7)
“The Rubicon – ArborGen – Horizon 2 GE tree exports lower New Zealand’s reputation by being both carbon depleters and GE.”
The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) has also granted Pacificvet Ltd of Christchurch, approval for importing for future exporting, a live GE E. coli vaccine (Poulvac® E. coli) used in the immunisation of poultry against colibacillosis. The vaccine, not permitted for use in New Zealand, is intended to be exported to South Pacific countries which will not be under ERMA controls. (5,6)
Specific consent from the Minister for the Environment is required however, if the export is for the non-contained use of the GE organism (GMO) in the country of import, and it appears import for export consent holder Pacificvet Ltd of Christchurch is now wanting to export the vaccine.
“This is a rather strange situation of New Zealand being the warehouse for GE goods not permitted for use in New Zealand, but for use by some of our less cautious neighbours,” said Mr Browning.
“Like most New Zealanders, Soil & Health is proud that there is no effective release of GE organisms in New Zealand, and to maximize this country’s GE free advantage, wants a ban on the export of GE material.”
Soil & Health has a vision of an Organic 2020 free of genetically engineered organisms.
(1) http://jimhightower.com/node/6900 (Text also below)
(2) Audio, http://jimhightower.com/sites/jimhightower.civicactions.net/files/28_17_rnc.mp3
(4) Soil & Health’s previous media release and references further below Jim Hightower text.
(7) Click the links below for photographs of the Horizon 2 facility – ArborGen Australasian Head Office at 1943 SH39 Te Teko Bay of Plenty (07) 3229030 http://by107w.bay107.mail.live.com/att/GetAttachment.aspx?tnail=0&messag…|0|8CBFA35594C4CF0|, http://by107w.bay107.mail.live.com/att/GetAttachment.aspx?tnail=1&messag…|0|8CBFA35594C4CF0|, http://by107w.bay107.mail.live.com/att/GetAttachment.aspx?tnail=2&messag…|0|8CBFA35594C4CF0|, http://by107w.bay107.mail.live.com/att/GetAttachment.aspx?tnail=3&messag…|0|8CBFA35594C4CF0|
(1 Text) The Invasion of Genetically-Engineered Eucalyptus
Jim Hightower jimhightower.com, August 6 2009
Here’s a great idea: Let’s bring into our country a genetically-engineered, non-native tree that is known to be wildly invasive, explosively flammable, and insatiably thirsty for ground water. Then let’s clone thousands of these living firecrackers and plant them in forested regions across seven Southern states, allowing them to grow, flower, produce seeds, and spread into native environments.
Yes, this would be irresponsible, dangerous, and stupid – but apparently “Irresponsible, Dangerous, and Stupid” is the unofficial slogan of the U.S. Department Agriculture. In May, with little consideration of the devastating consequences for our native environment, USDA cavalierly rubberstamped a proposal by a profiteering corporation named ArborGen to do all of the above.
Substantially owned by International Paper, ArborGen shipped tissue from Brazilian eucalyptus trees to its New Zealand laboratories, where it was genetically altered to have more cellulose. New Zealand, however, outlaws plantings of genetically-engineered crops, so ArborGen sought out a more corporate-compliant country: Ours. The engineered eucalyptus was waved right into the good ol’ USA to be cloned, and it’s now awaiting final approval for outdoor release in our land.
This has happened with practically no media coverage or public participation. It is happening solely because a handful of global speculators hope to profit by making ethanol from cellulose-enhanced eucalyptus – never mind that their self-aggrandizement would put America’s native forests in danger of irreversible contamination by these destructive, invasive Frankentrees.
Luckily, several scrappy grassroots groups have mobilized to bring common sense and public pressure to bear on USDA. For updates and action items, visit www.nogetrees.org