Scotts Miracle-Gro is currently testing a new GMO in backyards: RoundUp ready Kentucky bluegrass. The GMO has been genetically modified to resist being killed by Monsanto’s powerful and well-known herbicide, RoundUp. This season, the GMO will be tested in Scotts’ employees’ yards. Scotts CEO Jim Hagedorn called the testing “a major step forward,” according to The Columbus Dispatch. Hagedorn said, “I think we will see limited commercial activity the following year (2015), and I think, if all goes well, much more (activity) in the consumer market in 2016.”
Scotts had been testing GMOs since 1998, but the biotech operation was almost shut down after another GMO, genetically modified bent grass, escaped from a test field in Oregon. This test’s failure, as well as other episodes, made it evident how difficult it is to contain GMOs. “As these seeds spread and more and more grass takes up that genetic trait, we’ll find organic farmers who want to grass feed their beef, can’t do it because their grass is genetically modified, which is prohibited in organic standards,” Bill Duesing of the Northeast Organic Farming Association explained.
Scotts’ newest GMO, according to the company, will be much easier to contain because Kentucky bluegrass has a heavier pollen than the bent grass did. John Finer, a professor at Ohio State, backs up this theory.
Scotts avoided having to deal with federal regulation, including the normal public comment period, because the USDA exempted the RoundUp ready Kentucky bluegrass due to the way in which it was genetically modified. Instead of splicing in genetics from a completely unrelated species like bacteria, such as the way many crops are genetically modified, the new bluegrass contains genes from another plant. Hagedorn said that the GMO will produce lawns that are “much-deeper green than lawns are today.” GMO opposition believes that the grass won’t always be greener on the other side, though.
Alexis Baden-Mayer, the political director for the Organic Consumers Association, according to The Columbus Dispatch, said that the genetics of the GM Kentucky Bluegrass would mean more RoundUp use, and inevitably lead to weeds becoming even more resistant to RoundUp. This would lead to even more herbicides being needed on non-organic food crops. Organic farmers aren’t buying the heavier seed idea. and are concerned that Scotts’ GMO will spread and may spread into their organic farms. This threatens their organic certification and risks tarnishing their grass-fed cows’ food supply.
According to the CT Mirror, in April, the CT state senate voted for legislation to ban genetically engineered grass seed after 47,000 people in the state contacted legislative offices hoping to pass such a ban. The state house ended up killing the bill, but Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams described the proposed bill as “taking a stand against the chemical companies and special interests which are poised to dump tens of thousands of gallons of pesticides on lawns across Connecticut.”
A petition which has already been signed by over 10,000 individuals opposing the production of Scotts’ new Kentucky bluegrass is circulating on the internet. The Facebook page for Scotts Lawn Care is being pummeled by angry customers who are organizing another boycott. Duesing, of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, says GMOs like Scotts’ RoundUp ready Kentucky bluegrass, are a form of pollution with a life of its own.
[Photo via Scotts’ Facebook page]