United States Opens Door Toward Genetically Modified Lawns
Department of Agriculture Says It Won’t Regulate Bio-Tech Bluegrass
Partners Scotts Miracle-Gro and Monsanto have gained a significant early-stage victory in their goal to see American landscapes covered with genetically modified grass seed.
On Friday the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a ruling stating that it would not regulate a new bio-tech bluegrass, thereby opening the door for Scotts Miracle-Gro and Monsanto to continue to develop the mutant grass seed — which is resistant to Roundup, the toxic weed killer that has been linked to birth defects, breathing difficulties and skin rashes.
Bluegrass is the most widely planted grass seed in North America. Brought here from Eastern Europe by the earliest settlers as cattle feed in Colonial times, it has been improved through traditional breeding techniques in the past 40 years. Environmentalists fear that a genetically modified bluegrass would openly pollinate with naturally bred species — as has happened in Scotts Miracle-Gro experiments with genetically modified bentgrass in three western states.
In 2002, the consumer groups, Center for Food Safety and International Center for Technology Assessment asked USDA to list genetically modified bluegrass and bentgrass as noxious weeds. USDA decided in 2003 that bentgrass did not meet the criteria of noxious weed. The groups sued in federal court and in 2007, the court overruled USDA and told it to reconsider the question.
This new move by APHIS, announced on a quiet media day in advance of a holiday weekend, is sure to bring a firestorm of criticism once the word gets around. Courts or the federal government must step up and prohibit genetically modified lawn grasses once and for all.
“I’d like to see biotech in every backyard,” Scotts Miracle-Gro CEO Jim Hagedorn told the magazine Wired in 2006: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.04/turf.html. That’s because he would own the seed. And when his mutant seed cross-pollinates with the grass on your lawn, Hagedorn will almost certainly claim that he owns the grass on your lawn, too.
As preposterous as that may sound, Monsanto has successfully sued dozens of farmers for growing its genetically modified seed — even though the farmers didn’t plant the seed; the GE seed has cross pollinated with the farmers’ pure seed.
Genetically modified grass seed is greedy, it’s evil and shows a cavalier disregard for the environment and human health. It’s all based on the idea that we can spray even more Roundup, which has been shown to be one of the most toxic substances on the planet — especially given how ubiquitously the product is used already.
Please take the time to call your elected officials and let them know you think genetically modified lawns are a bad idea. The timetable for the actual sale of genetically modified bluegrass is unclear. But Friday’s APHIS ruling has started the clock ticking and we simply must take action.