Could GM eucalyptus trees be the kudzu of the 2010s?

GE trees a total pesticide, from root to crown.

By Charlotte Observer

There was a time in the South when planting kudzu was not viewed as botanical vandalism, but as a community-spirited gesture. The vine, imported from Asia, was intended to control erosion and provide forage for livestock.

Some things just don’t work out.

Today kudzu is an invasive pest throughout the South, where it can grow up to a foot a day. It smothers trees, houses and if you move too slowly it might even smother you. Pretty much the only thing that will eat a mature kudzu vine is goats. If you lack goats, eradicating it takes years of herbicidal dousing.

Which leads us to a muddle-headed idea from an S.C.-based company: to plant 330 acres of eucalyptus trees genetically modified to withstand cold weather. The idea is that the tree, native to Australia, could be used commercially to make paper and as fuel for power plants. The Summerville, S.C.-based ArborGen, says the hybrid it would use can’t easily reproduce.

People thought kudzu was a good idea, too. The problem of invasive plants is growing as fast as, well, you know. It’s not just kudzu. Have you ever tried to get rid of wisteria gone wild? Japanese honeysuckle, English ivy or privet?

The major harm from invasive plants isn’t that they’re landscaping annoyances; it’s that they crowd out and smother native species. That means birds and other animals that rely on those native plants die out, too. A whole ecosystem fails.

Although one form of eucalyptus is already on a U.S. Forest Service list of invasive plants, ArborGen in May won federal permits for seven test sites, including one 75 miles from Charlotte in Marlboro County, S.C. A U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis concluded the test hybrids aren’t likely to create a pest plant.

We say, remember kudzu. For decades the federal Soil Conservation Service promoted it. And then it was too late.

And one reason kudzu hasn’t devoured the whole continent – yet – is that it prefers mild winters. Can you imagine the horror if it had been genetically modified to withstand cold weather?

Click here to read another Charlotte Observer article, “Groups Oppose GE Eucalyptus Trees“.

H/T Global Justice Ecology

Also see A Silent Forest: The growing threat of genetically engineered trees. Or, buy the film at Amazon.

3 responses to “Could GM eucalyptus trees be the kudzu of the 2010s?

  1. got one for ya…

    A koala was sitting in a eucalyptus tree smoking a joint.

    When a little lizard walked past, looked up and said, ‘Hey Koala! What are you doing?’

    The koala said, ‘Smoking a joint, come up and have some.’

    So the little lizard climbed up…

    and sat next to the koala where they enjoyed a few joints. After a while the little lizard said that his mouth was ‘dry’ and that he was going to get a drink from the river.

    The little lizard was so stoned that he leaned over too far and fell into the river. A crocodile saw this and swam over to the little lizard and helped him to the side.

    Then he asked the little lizard, ‘What’s the matter with you?’

    The little lizard explained to the crocodile that he had been sitting with the koala in the tree, smoking a joint, but got too stoned and fell into the river while taking a drink.

    The crocodile said that he had to check this out and walked into the rain forest, found the tree where the koala was sitting finishing a joint.

    The crocodile looked up and said, ‘Hey you!’

    So the koala looked down at him and said,

    ‘Shiiiiiiiiiiit dude…
    How much water did you drink!?’

  2. you can tell a non pot smoker wrote the joke… who can smoke “a few joints” in one sitting?

    lol

    but the little lizard does have to get super stoned… so maybe it works.

  3. btw, we have lizards, alligators and iguanas here in south florida…

    and with that big cold snap in february, the iguanas (which are not native and come from much warmer climes) would become paralyzed and fall out of the trees….

    I know it’s not funny… but in a way it is.

    especially if stoned

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