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[SANET-MG] GM Eucalyptus Environmental Assessment Irregular
The period for providing comments is near its closing (May 21,2007).
Presently there has been an avalanche of comments supporting the field
test release of the cold hardy eucalyptus by people in companies or
academia. Most people may feel unable to comment because all the genetic
modifications have been deemed confidential business information. I urge
people to express their concerns. To comment go to URL
http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main, scroll down to
ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE the go to APHIS-2007-0027 . I
think strong public objection is needed to prevent all of the
information GM crops and their environmental releases from being deemed CBI.
GM Eucalyptus Environmental Assessment Irregular
USDA’s environmental assessment uses confidential business information
liberally and frivolously and violates its own regulation if not federal law
Prof. Joe Cummins and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
Irregularities at USDA
USDA/APHIS has prepared an environmental assessment  in response to a
permit application (APHIS Number 06-325-111r) from ArborGen LLC
(ArborGen) to “continue” a field test of genetically engineered
(transgenic) Eucalyptus trees during which the trees may flower. These
plants are clones codenamed EH1 derived from a hybrid of Eucalyptus
grandis X Eucalyptus urophylla, and have been genetically engineered
with three different constructs. The primary purpose of the test is to
examine the efficacy two of the constructs intended to confer cold
tolerance, and a gene designed to reduce flower development.
There are serious irregularities with the USDA/APHIS environmental risk
First, the genes in all three constructs are claimed as confidential
business information (CBI). In addition, the selectable marker gene that
accompanies the constructs is also claimed as CBI.
Second, according to APHIS, the field test was originally planted under
APHIS Notification (05-256-03r) , but that permit was for a different
organism - Eucalyptus grandis - not the hybrid in the current
Third, ArborGen was charged with non-compliance on 17 July 2006 for
failing to maintain the identity of trees in their test plots and the
infraction was resolved by the removal of the offending trees from the
test location .
Because APHIS has allowed the transgenes to be designated CBI, the
environmental assessment can have no credence because there is no way
that an independent investigator can judge the assurances given in the
APHIS report. The report stated : “The gene used as a selectable
marker is claimed as CBI. In a number of instances, plants transformed
with this gene have been deregulated by APHIS. Consequently, APHIS has
determined the presence of this gene will have no significant
environmental impacts.” If the marker is a deregulated item, allowing it
to be designated CBI seems both frivolous and irregular.
The fact that USDA/APHIS is now giving approval for a previous charge of
non-compliance is a clear violation of its own regulation, if not
The environmental assessment claims that the GM hybrids did not contain
genes for toxins. However, a patent application by ArborGen for
regulation of reproduction in Angiosperms and Gymnosperm plants does
employ the potent cell toxin barnase for cell ablation . The well
known toxicity of barnase to mammals as used in cell ablation to control
flowering has been discussed [5, 6] (Terminator Trees, SiS 26; Chronicle
of An Ecological Disaster Foretold , SiS 18). The use of that toxin gene
may have been covered up by the CBI designation. ArborGen has a number
of patent for modification of gene expression [7-12], all of which pose
a significant threat to the environment which has not previously been
subject to regulatory scrutiny. but CBI designation provided by APHIS
will prevent independent scrutiny and assessment. The various known
complication resulting from the use of transgenes similar to those
available for use by ArborGen were recently reviewed [13, 14] (View from
MADS House, SiS 26); GM Food Nightmare Unfolding in the Regulatory Sham,
ISIS scientific publication).
Federal Courts in the US have ruled against the Department of
Agriculture (USDA) in three successive cases for failing to carry out
proper environment impact assessment, making the original approvals of
GM crops illegal. In all three cases, USDA was found to have flouted the
law and disregarded health and environmental concerns in their approvals
of the GM crops . As we pointed out, the failure to identify the
locations and the exact nature of GM crops being tested must also be
addressed along with the frivolous use of Confidential Business
Information designations to conceal crucial information for safety
evaluation and the persistent regulatory bias towards the uncritical
acceptance of GM crops.
The current application for GM eucalyptus trees must be rejected.
Furthermore, a ban on further spread of GM forest trees should be
1. USDA/APHIS Environmental Assessment In response to permit application
(06-325-111r) received from ArborGen LLC for a field-test of genetically
engineered Eucalyptus grandis X Eucalyptus urophylla U.S. Department of
Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Biotechnology
Regulatory Services 2007,
2. Information Systems for Biotechnology 05-256-03N Eucalyptus grandis
09/29/05 ArborGen http://www.nbiap.vt.edu/cfdocs/fieldtests3.cfm
3. USDA - APHIS - Biotechnology Noncompliance History
Company/Institution: ArborGen, LLC July 17, 2006
4. Rottman W, Norris-Caneda K and Zhang C. ArborGen Reproductive
ablation constructs United States Patent Application 20060085867
5. Cummins J and Ho MW. Terminator trees. Science in Society 26, 7, 2005.
6. Ho MW and Cummins J. Chronicle of an ecological disaster foretold.
Science in Society 18, 26-27, 2003.
7. Perera R, Rice S, Woods M, Eagleton C and Visser L. Compositions and
methods for the modification of gene expression. ArborGen-Rubicon United
States Patent 2007 7,211,713.
8. Chang S, Connet M, Emerson S, Forster R, Gause K, Havukkala I,
Higgins C and Kodrzcki R. Cell signalling genes and related methods
United States Patent Application 20070039071.
9. Bloksberg N, Bryant C, Connett M, Emerson S, Frost M, Forster R,
Llewellyn R, Murray G, Higgins C, Lasham A, Lund S, Troy S, Magusin A,
Phillips J, Puthigae S, Veerakone S, Westwood C, Gause K, Wood M,
Havukkala I, Rottmann W. ArborGen Transcription Factors United States
Patent Application 20070039070.
10. Forster R, Connett M, Emerson S, Grigor M, Higgins C, Lund ,S,
Magusin A and Kodrzycki B. Cell cycle genes and related methods United
States Patent Application 20060010516.
11. Rajan P, Rice S, Eagleton C, Wood M and Visser E. Arborgen
Composition and methods for the modification of gene expression States
Patent Application 20050244968.
12. Phillips J, Puthigae S,Yao J, Flinn B, Forster B and Ealeton C
ArboreGen Vascular-preferred promoters States Patent Application
13. Cummuns J. View from MADS house. Science in Society 26, 2005.
14. Ho MW, Cummins J. and Saunders P. GM food nightmare unfolding in the
regulatory sham Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease 2007 (in press).
15. Cummins J and Ho MW. Approval of GM crops illegal, US Federal Courts
rule. Science in Society 34 (in press).
16. Cummins J and Ho M-W Moratorium on all GM trees and ban on GM forest
trees. ISIS Report 2007,
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