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Anti-biotech crowd targets eucalyptus trees

Back-to-back commentaries on the subject of environmental radicals ( may seem a bit much, even from this writer. However, the latest from those who refuse to accept mankind’s progress is too ludicrous to pass up. A band of radicals is suing the federal government to stop development of commercial, genetically modified eucalyptus trees. Yep, eucalyptus trees.

ArborGen, a biotechnology venture affiliated with three large paper companies, received USDA approval recently for field trials involving as many as 250,000 eucalyptus trees planted at 29 sites during the next few years.

Australian eucalyptus trees grow faster than native hardwoods and produce a high-quality pulp perfect for paper production. However, so far, they have been able to thrive only in very warm climates. South Carolina-based ArborGen genetically altered the trees to withstand freezing temperatures, and the idea with the test forests is to see how far north they can now be grown.

The company says plantations of hearty, faster-growing eucalyptus could produce more timber in a smaller area and allow conservation of natural forests.

Not so quick, says a half-dozen radical groups, including our friends at the Center for Biological Diversity. (That is the Tucson-based bunch that passes out designer condoms to reduce the earth’s human population to make more room for animals.)

This anti-biotech coalition also includes the Center for Food Safety. This is the gang that has wasted time and taxpayer money trying to stop Roundup Ready alfalfa. The radicals are using the same unsuccessful stalling tactics on the cold-tolerant eucalyptus trees used against RR alfalfa. They want to delay the inevitable – again – by making the federal government unnecessarily prepare an environmental impact report on the project, despite the fact the government has thoroughly reviewed the science and approved the project already.

They claim that cold-tolerant eucalyptus will somehow take over native forests. Eucalyptus has been around an estimated 35-50 million years and as far as I can tell, there are still plenty of non-eucalyptus forests around. Modern day eucalyptus originated in Australia. Rational environmentalists embrace it because it is a fast growing, renewable source of fuel in undeveloped nations. It is a source of oil and even a natural insecticide. Eucalyptus was introduced in California during the Gold Rush as a rapidly growing fuel source. It has long been used for windbreaks and erosion control.

It has its detractors, but so do other native and non-native plants.

Regardless, ArborGen’s biotech efforts seem to enhance eucalyptus’ valuable attributes in a controlled growth environment. The company wants to produce more trees used for paper in a smaller land area.

Bet if you did a little checking, there is some eucalyptus DNA in the paper reams used in all the nefarious lawsuits filed by the pack of parasites and maybe even in the government checks they get for legal expenses as “non-profit” organizations protecting you and me.

I have been accused of being a biotech junkyard dog. I admit it, and am proud of it. As I have commented often: There is far too much to be gained from this technology than to let radicals sidetrack it for a minute.

Recently, I was visiting with a UC farm advisor who was excited about the introduction of genetically modified, drought-tolerant corn. When I first heard about this new biotech trait, it seemed to offer the greatest benefit to dryland farming and to impoverished nations seeking more food production.

However, the farm advisor pointed out that drought-tolerant corn could save two irrigations for California corn growers. Two irrigations on California’s statewide corn crop could save 600,000-acre feet of water, by my crude calculations. That is enough water a year for 600,000 families — well over 1 million people.

The same farm advisor also noted that the latest generation of biotech, worm resistant corn varieties provides significant benefit not only to corn growers, but to California tomato producers. Corn earworm, as most growers know, is the same insect pest as the tomato fruitworm. Control the corn earworm in corn and you get control of processing tomatoes. The pesticide savings using this technology reach far beyond being a direct benefit to one crop. The stakes are too high in feeding a growing world than to let these radicals get away with their immoral bag of legalese tricks.

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