By Dan Nosowitz
Creeping bentgrass doesn't get as much attention as other genetically modified plants. But this plant tells us an awful lot—emphasis on the "awful"—about how GMO plants are regulated and monitored.
Julia Rosen has a feature over at High Country News about creeping bentgrass, a grass that was genetically modified to resist the Roundup pesticide and designed with golf courses in mind. Creeping bentgrass is not, at least so far, among the most flashily damaging of genetically modified plants, but the way it has been treated by regulatory agencies sheds a light on a myriad of issues with the way the government treats GMO plants.
Creeping bentgrass is a variety of green grass which is prized for its ability to, well, creep: it grows strong horizontal stems, which gives it a very even ground cover. That makes it excellent for golf courses and other athletic fields. Uses like such require uniform growth, meaning weeds are always an issue, so Scotts Miracle-Gro, one of the biggest companies in lawn care, developed a strain of creeping bentgrass that is genetically modified to be resistant to Roundup, a popular pesticide sold by the same company.
Rosen dives into the history of the approval process of Scotts' bentgrass, which involved a maximum fine for noncompliance with testing procedures back in 2007. While testing a field of the grass in Oregon in 2013, huge windstorms blew the plant's seeds miles away. From there, it spread, thriving along waterways and in ditches, where its extreme resistance to the popular pesticide has made it extremely difficult to control.
Creeping bentgrass has not had any major ill effects so far. Sure, there are fears that it can find its way into products due for export to countries that don't accept GMO products, like Japan, but that hasn't happened yet. What's most interesting about the whole saga is the way the regulations, as currently written, and the crawling pace of updates hamstrung any efforts to actually control the grass. From Rosen's story:
"When lawmakers first confronted GE crops in the 1980s, they decided not to create new laws to regulate them. Instead, agencies used existing laws and split the authority. The Food and Drug Administration would oversee edible crops and the Environmental Protection Agency would manage pesticides and plants engineered to produce biopesticides. The USDA already had the power to guard against plant pests, a category that includes parasites, microbes, bugs and other critters that physically harm plants or plant products. And because most GE organisms were initially modified using DNA from bacteria or viruses—both pests—they came under the purview of APHIS' Biotechnology Regulatory Services.
"But if a company petitioned to have a GE product deregulated, APHIS could only deny it if it concluded that the product itself was a pest, or if it could somehow boost pests. Few plants met this criteria; simply being weedy or troublesome was not enough. As a result, APHIS has not denied any of the 127 petitions it's received for deregulation."
The regulations lag perilously far behind the scientific updates; new tools like gene guns are completely unregulated, leaving companies free to test and plant crops with no oversight.
Creeping bentgrass is not necessarily the problem—it's a problem, but it's more of a warning sign of what can slip through the cracks given the current regulatory state. Check out the entire story, it's worth the read.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
Scientists are on the brink of scaling up an enzyme that devours plastic. In the latest breakthrough, the enzyme degraded plastic bottles six times faster than previous research achieved, as The Guardian reported.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jessica Corbett
In a rare calm moment during a historically active Atlantic hurricane season, an international team of climate scientists on Monday published a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change showing that human-caused global heating is making the world's oceans more "stable"—which, as co-author Michael Mann explained, is "very bad news."
<div id="e639b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d8d112e123588b9bf3c3eadcc89627e8"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1310602217825726465" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Thank you to @MichaelEMann for patiently and clearly explaining to non scientists why increased ocean stabilizati… https://t.co/yW2BmQhKGp</div> — Dr Naomi Wolf (@Dr Naomi Wolf)<a href="https://twitter.com/naomirwolf/statuses/1310602217825726465">1601306893.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="85eca" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="43780424fc8b04e23a525e1bad1086eb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1310608647651811336" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Canada has oceans on 3 sides-we can't ignore the climate news that The Oceans Appear to Be Stabilizing. Here's Why… https://t.co/SfWJWWRHr7</div> — Friends Of Halifax Common (@Friends Of Halifax Common)<a href="https://twitter.com/FriendsHalifax/statuses/1310608647651811336">1601308426.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="3e52e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f210e186b6e1481a64770e0c8722a438"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1310638669477236738" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">"Das bedeutet, dass das CO2-Budget, das zur Vermeidung kritischer Erhitzung (z.B. 1,5°C) übrig bleibt, möglicherwei… https://t.co/675YBTSybJ</div> — Parents For Future #SystemChangeNotClimateChange (@Parents For Future #SystemChangeNotClimateChange)<a href="https://twitter.com/parents4future/statuses/1310638669477236738">1601315583.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Ending his piece on a similar note, Mann wrote that "in short, it's unwise to be complacent given the accumulating scientific evidence that climate change and its impacts may well be in the upper end of the range that climate scientists currently project. There is ever-greater urgency when it comes to acting on climate. But there is agency as well. Our actions <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/dangerous-new-form-climate-denialism-making-rounds-opinion-1455736" target="_blank">make a difference</a>—something to keep in mind as we head into a presidential election <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/greta-thunberg-donald-trump-true-leadership-climate-change-free-world-1461147" target="_blank">whose climate implications</a> are monumental."</p><p>Mann is on the mounting list of climate experts and advocates <a href="https://www.axios.com/2020-presidential-election-joe-biden-endorsed-climate-scientists-24013990-0300-4c2c-ad95-57571b397196.html?fbclid=IwAR3vTCBmK5BwvoafwGefadTsnIMnKo9FS6ssc9PCdFLEeXr6p4KHlnrFWKU" target="_blank">supporting </a>Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in his effort to oust President Donald Trump—who has, at various points, ignored and exacerbated the climate emergency. Earlier this month, the <a href="https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/09/15/matter-life-and-death-after-175-years-scientific-american-backs-biden-magazines" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">editors</a> of<em> Scientific American</em> as well as the political action arms of both 350 and Friends of the Earth also <a href="https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/09/24/clarion-call-all-progressive-environmentalists-defeat-trumps-planetary-destruction" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">endorsed</a> the former vice president.</p><p>"The stakes are clear and present," Tamara Toles O'Laughlin from 350 Action said of the general election, for which early voting is already underway in some states. "The planet cannot withstand four more years of Trump."</p>
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When he talks about the Trump administration, David Doniger likes to say: "Imagine where we'd be if they knew what they were doing." The climate lawyer and senior advisor to the NRDC Action Fund spends his days defending the environment from the U.S. government, and for the past three and a half years, that's meant a front-row seat to the Trump administration's relentless attacks on any regulation that's meant to slow the climate crisis.
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