Unique risks: Trees are more complex organisms than agricultural crops. Aside from having longer lives, most trees have multiple methods of reproduction (including asexual), and unlike today’s agricultural crops, trees have not undergone thousands of years of domestication, meaning that GE trees are much more likely to come in contact and cross-pollinate with wild varieties. GE trees will be harder to contain than GE crops, of which there have been repeated and unavoidable contamination events, resulting in untold environmental harms and millions of dollars in economic damages. While some GE tree harms will be unprecedented and novel, their closest past analogy is invasive species, which have caused incalculable and irreparable damage to U.S. native ecosystems.
Unproven science: GE trees are still in the research and development phase, and the science behind the genetically engineered traits has not been fully evaluated and tested. Many questions remain while the purported benefits are unproven.
Flawed model: GE trees are just the next step in the flawed industrial agriculture system. A handful of biotech, paper, and energy companies stand to profit from the planting of large scale GE tree plantations while our collective environment is put at risk. Additionally, these plantations will compete with other land uses, especially if trees are used as a biofuel feedstock.
Poor regulation: The current regulatory system for GE trees does not carry out comprehensive or robust risk assessments for their planting and use, and is further ill-equipped to manage contamination events should GE trees contaminate forests or cause other environmental or economic harm. If any GE tree is commercially approved, USDA has indicated it will even not undertake post-market monitoring for adverse effects.