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Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees

Groups globally mobilize to stop commercial release of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in Brazil and the US.

New York –Two unprecedented applications are pending that, if approved, would allow the commercial sale of millions of genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees for development into vast industrial GE tree plantations in the US and Brazil. The Campaign to STOP GE Trees [1] is expanding and mobilizing to stop these and all large-scale releases of GE trees into the environment.

In the US, ArborGen has a request pending with the Department of Agriculture to commercially sell freeze-tolerant GE eucalyptus trees; at the same time in Brazil, Futuragene has requested permission to release GE eucalyptus trees from CTNBio, Brazil’s biosafety regulatory agency. CTNBio is planning a public hearing on the Futuragene GE tree application on 4 September. The USDA could release their draft ruling at any time.

“We have tried to ban GE trees globally through various bodies of the United Nations, and now groups are coordinating internationally to stop any and all applications to legalize GE trees,” stated Winfridus Overbeek, Brazil-based Coordinator of the World Rainforest Movement and Steering Committee member for the Campaign. “It’s crucial that these potentially disastrous trees not be commercially released because the health and viability of entire forest ecosystems and the communities who depend on them will be at risk.”

Because GE trees, unlike GE crop plants, can live for decades and spread their seeds and pollen for many kilometers, if planted on an industrial scale they are likely to invade and contaminate ecosystems. They will also deepen already proven harmful ecological and social consequences of industrial tree plantations, including the loss of land and water shortages for neighboring communities. Therefore, the Campaign to STOP GE Trees, which recently expanded its reach with campaigners on four continents, is demanding a global ban on the release of all GE trees into the environment.

Native only to Australia, eucalyptus trees planted elsewhere have been documented to be invasive, water intensive, and extremely flammable. According to Australian Emergency Management, eucalyptus trees “once caught alight are very difficult to control and extinguish due to the high amounts of flammable vapour from [their] leaves. This causes large fireballs in the upper storey of the forest”. [2]

“Young, densely stocked eucalyptus plantations in particular are highly flammable,” said Lauren Caulfield, Forest Campaigner with Friends of the Earth Melbourne and Campaign to STOP GE Trees Committee member.

The Campaign to STOP GE Trees is an international alliance of organizations [3], that includes Indigenous Peoples, scientists, anti-GMO food activists, forest protection advocates and social justice organizers from across North and South America, Europe and Australasia – all of which are home to companies and universities developing GE trees.

Campaign Steering Committee member and Indigenous Environmental Network campaigner, BJ McManama said, “We are mobilizing organizations, social movements, communities and grassroots groups to stop GE trees from being released by the millions into the environment. We must stop this attack on Mother Earth.”


1. The Campaign to STOP GE Trees recently hired additional staff, opened a new international office and launched a website> which lists the Steering Committee members and organizations involved in the Campaign, as well as details about the threats of GE trees.

2. Emergency Management For Schools (AUS)

3. Organizations involved in the Campaign include:

Biofuelwatch (US-UK)

Canadian Biotechnology Action Network

EcoNexus (Europe)

Indigenous Environmental Network (North America)

World Rainforest Movement (Uruguay)

Friends of the Earth Melbourne (Australia)

Global Justice Ecology Project (US-International)