Monsanto and Scotts have begun testing the first genetically engineered (GE) grass, intended for both consumer and commercial use.
Scotts Roundup-Ready Kentucky Bluegrass, genetically engineered to withstand massive amounts of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, is unregulated, will not be labeled “GMO” (genetically modified organisms), and because of the ease with which grass spreads, could soon contaminate lawns, parks, golf courses and pastures everywhere.
Because Roundup will kill everything except the grass engineered to stand up to it, lawns all over the country will be green and lush. Unfortunately, they’ll also be toxic, and you won’t even know it.
As these seeds spread and more grass takes up that genetic trait, organic farmers who want to grass feed their beef won’t be able to do so because their grass is genetically modified, which is prohibited in organic standards.
In July 2011, Scotts Company and Monsanto convinced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to give the companies a free pass to market Roundup-Ready Kentucky Bluegrass with no testing required.
They were able to circumvent the system because GE crops are regulated by the USDA under rules pertaining to plant pests. These rules were created in the 1950s to give the USDA the ability to constrain the introduction of organisms that would inflict harm to plants. Because genetically modified crops use DNA material derived from natural plant pathogens, they technically qualify as “plant pests.”
Scotts got around this level of restriction because they avoided using plant pests in the development of the Kentucky Bluegrass. Instead, the glyphosate-resistant gene originated from other plants that were not considered pathogens. Furthermore, the gene was fired in with a gene gun, instead of being carried by a plant pest bacterium. By avoiding the use of plant pests in the engineering process, Scotts has also avoided that regulation trigger.
The second mechanism the USDA could have used to regulate GMO grass is the noxious weed provision under the Plant Protection Act of 2000. Bluegrass spreads easily because its light pollen can be carried for miles on the wind. Inevitably, genetically modified bluegrass will transfer its genes to established conventional bluegrass.
Because of this, Scotts Roundup-Ready grass threatens to contaminate every lawn, park, roadside, and field in sight, including the pastures used by organic farmers to graze their cattle. This not only puts organic farmers at risk of losing their certification, but it puts the animals at risk of eating GMO grass. Research shows that GMO grain has a devastating impact on the health of animals raised for slaughter. Will GMO grass also be hazardous to animal health, including cattle raised for meat, as well as people’s prized horses?
Beyond its ability to spread quickly, beyond its potential impact on organic farmers, even more troubling is the fact that once Scotts Roundup Ready grass hits the market, it will lead to a dramatic increase in the use of Roundup, already the most widely used, and potentially harmful, herbicide in the world. And much of that Roundup will be lurking in places where kids play.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide is described by researchers as, “the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment.” It’s been linked to a litany of health disorders and diseases including Parkinson’s, cancer and autism.
Studies have revealed a connection between the use of glyphosate and birth defects in frog and chicken embryos. A more recent study shows that the toxic herbicide is found in the breast milk of American women.
This month, employees of Scotts goal is to have the GMO ready for commercial applications in 2015, and on the consumer market in 2016.
Scotts, which is Monsanto’s exclusive agent for the marketing and distribution of consumer Roundup, has much to gain by releasing its frankengrass into the marketplace. They see a potential profit of 500 million to one billion dollars per year as realistic.
The company is determined to protect its projected revenue. When Connecticut came close to passing a statewide ban on GMO grass, Scotts CEO sent a letter to Gov. Dannel Malloy stating that any renewed effort to ban or place a moratorium on the new seed could result in them questioning whether continuing to invest in Connecticut is in the best long-term interests of their company and its stockholders.
Monsanto and Scotts are both members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which has spent millions to defeat GMO labeling laws and bans, and plans to sue Vermont to overturn its recently passed law requiring mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs. The Organic Consumers Association has called for a boycott of all products marketed by members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.