July 9, 2013
Monsanto and ArborGen set their sights on GM trees and grasses
By: Tony Isaacs
Franken trees and Franken grasses
In recent years, Monsanto and ArborGen have been developing GM trees including trees modified to withstand Monsanto’s Roundup, trees designed with a reduced lignin content to appeal to paper making and construction industries (lignin gives trees their strength and rigidity) and “terminator trees” which don’t produce seeds. In Hawaii, there has already been a contamination issue with GM papaya – the world’s first commercially planted genetically engineered tree.
One of the GM trees currently being readied planting is GM Eucalyptus, despite numerous unresolved and unstudied concerns such as:
*Cryptococcus neoformans gattii, a yeast pathogen hosted by a variety of Eucalyptus species. It causes systemic fungal infections in humans, leading to fungal meningitis and death.
*Cold tolerance C-Repeat Binding Factor (CBF) genes such as those found in transgenic Eucalyptus trees that have been associated with stunted growth and production in potatoes. CBF gene modification produces highly pleiotropic effects but there does not appear to have been any investigation on the production of unintended metabolites, proteins, or nuclei acids in the modified trees.
*Transgenes, such as the ones involved in the Agrobacterium vector used in creating the transgenic trees, which can enlarge their host range to infect other species and exchange genes with them through hormones produced at the site of plant wounds.
*As reported by MSNBC and PLoS Pathogens, a new strain of a deadly fungus, Cryptococcus gattii, that has been causing fatal human illnesses throughout the Pacific Northwest. The fungus, which is known to grow on eucalyptus trees, has killed 40 out of 220 people infected throughout the region. The reduced lignin in GM eucalyptus has raised concerns that the trees could be more susceptible to infection.
*Pollen from GM Eucalyptus trees can travel almost twice as far as the ArboGen application stated. Pollen from other GM trees can travel for over 40 kilometers.
One way Monsanto has used to escape scrutiny of their GM Eucalyptus is by declaring most, if not all of the genetically modified components to be ‘Confidential Business information’ (CBI). The CBI designation prevents independent evaluation of the full impact of GM eucalyptus on the environment and on human and animal health.
The USDA recently handed Monsanto and their client lawn seed company Scotts a huge victory by deciding to not regulate Roundup Ready Scotts Kentucky Bluegrass. The USDA had previously echoed warnings by the Center for Technology Assessment that GM bluegrass could become an “environmental nightmare”.
Grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass have light and easily dispersed pollen. Thus, the likelihood of polluting existing strains is virtually certain as has happened in Oregon where Roundup Ready bentgrass has become a scourge.
So, get ready for even more toxic poisons in the coming plague of glyphosate-resistant plants gone wild. Also expect Monsanto to demand that payment for infringing on their patents, as they have with farmers whose crops have been adulterated by Monsanto’s seed pollen.
A sure formula for disaster
Easy approval of GM grasses and trees combined with insufficient testing and lack of oversight is an almost certain formula for future disaster. As we have seen with other Monsanto GM plants, once the GM genie is out of the bottle it is pretty much impossible to put it back in.
Sources for this article included:
Image taken from