sphagnum moss, dark water, and politics
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Couldn't Call It Unexpected No. 1:
Attack of the Frankengrass! (GM Grass Gone Wild)
From NPR, Super Grass Spreads Beyond Its Oregon Test Plot
A new genetically modified strain of grass has proved to be resistant to a reliable weed killer. Now the plant has spread beyond its test plot in central Oregon, and scientists and environmentalists are concerned about the possibility of "superweeds."The audio's refusing to work for me right now . . . ah, here we go, a NY Times article from this summer. Basically? Scotts Miracle-Gro and Monsanto decided to create and test a Roundup Ready version of the creeping bentgrass - that is, to genetically engineer creeping bentgrass to be resistant to Monsanto's popular Roundup herbicide, as has been already done with various crops you are eating and wearing. The idea is that it could be planted on golf courses - of course - so that Roundup could be applied to wipe out competing plants: synergy gone biological. Which, to be fair, if we have to have golf course monocultures, would be better than some of the alternatives.
But then there was a little problem (realistically, a few little problems) at the central Oregon test site:
APHIS alleged that, on two occasions, Scotts failed to notify APHIS about the accidental release of Roundup Ready Creeping Bentgrass (RRCB), which resulted from unanticipated wind events at a field test site in Jefferson County, OR and carried dried RRCB seed heads beyond the field test location. Scotts provided a mitigation plan and committed to additional control measures outlined in a Compliance Agreement with BRS. In addition to paying a civil penalty, Scotts was required to implement training and procedures to prevent future violations. BRS is currently conducting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate whether a petition by Scotts and Monsanto Company to deregulate RRCB poses any plant pest risks. This is the first time BRS has conducted an EIS in response to a petition for deregulation.Unanticipated wind events. Ya gotta love it. Anyway, while an EPA study two years ago had found bentgrass pollen miles away from the site, the more recent study revealed a small number of genetically engineered plants growing in the wild - some from seed, some hybridized - up to over two miles away from test site zone. It's the first time (that we know of) this sort of thing has happened in the US.
Now, wild Roundup Ready creeping bentgrass is far from the worst thing that could happen - there's some concern about pesticide-resistant superweeds creeping over public lands, and it could conceivably damage the grass seed industry - centered in the nearby Willamette Valley - if other countries ban their products due to proven or suspected contamination. It's just that this is so ridiculously predictable, especially given the nature of the grass - able to spread by itself (unlike, say, corn), with light windblown pollen, and many wild relatives growing nearby . . . and remember, the idea's to have it on golf courses all over the country. Note also that marks another first: " the Agriculture Department is doing a full environmental impact assessment before making a decision. It will be its first involving a genetically engineered crop." I certainly don't think genetically engineered crops are inherently evil, but corporate-influenced lack of oversight, that's another matter.
posted by Dan S. on 7:03 AM | | link
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