Listen to Hightower's commentary
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.