Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Roundup Ready GMO Grass Coming to a Lawn Near You?

Scotts Miracle-Gro Company is developing another variety of GMO grass that's engineered to withstand applications of glyphosate

Popular
Roundup Ready GMO Grass Coming to a Lawn Near You?

Scotts Miracle-Gro is developing yet another variety of genetically modified (GMO) grass that's engineered to withstand applications of glyphosate, the controversial main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller.

This latest effort follows Scotts's first fiasco with GMO turf. In 1997, the lawn care company teamed up with Monsanto to create GMO grass for golf courses. Unfortunately, their bio-enhanced creeping bentgrass escaped from field trials into the Oregon wild in 2003, thus eliminating any chance of federal approval for commercial use, as the New York Times reported in 2006.

Scotts was fined $500,000 for the incident but their lab-grown grass is still found in parts of Oregon, and has sparked concerns from local residents and organic livestock farmers who are worried that the hard-to-eradicate grass could invade pastures or contaminate non-GMO hay or grain fields.

According to Forbes, trials are already underway for Scotts's latest Roundup Ready grass that grows at half the speed of conventional grass. The company hopes the novel grass will enter the market in three years. As the publication detailed:

[Scotts Miracle-Gro CEO Jim Hagedorn] and his team leveraging unpatented gene research to create new kinds of turf. Using technology previously developed by a scientist at Cornell, Scotts is mechanically implanting genes into crop varieties, instead of using agrobacterium. That means Scotts scientists can now develop new grasses without going through the standard USDA regulatory process.

Scotts's new GMO grass is an example of a company taking advantage of a new legal loophole that has allowed certain types of GMOs, such as the CRISPR-edited white button mushroom, bypass government regulations. This growing trend in biotechnology has critics speaking out mainly because these GMOs fall outside of regulatory authority.

"They are using a technical loophole so that what are clearly genetically engineered crops and organisms are escaping regulation," Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumers Union, told the New York Times last year about Scotts's GMO grass, adding that the plants "can have all sorts of ecological impact and no one is required to look at it."

Scotts believes that their unregulated GMO grass will help gardeners uses less fertilizer and will require less maintenance, Forbes noted.

Ronnie Cummins, founder and international director of the Organic Consumers Association, criticized Scotts's genetically engineered grass in a 2014 blog post:

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.

GMO Free USA has previously urged a boycott on Scotts Miracle-Gro and has called on gardening centers such as Home Depot and Lowes to not sell the product:

GMO Roundup Ready grass will result in a further increase in the use of Roundup, which has already contaminated our groundwater and drinking water. Imagine your children and pets frolicking around in a sea of herbicidal poison. Because of potential widespread use and inevitable contamination, the grass is likely to be eaten by grass grazing animals. There has been no toxicity testing and the potential harm to animals eating this GMO grass is unknown. Will we be saying, "good-bye," to pasture raised meat?

Over 60 million acres of farmland in the U.S. have been infested with Roundup resistant superweeds, leading to ever increasing applications of Roundup and additional toxic herbicides. Homeowners across America are being led down the same path of chemical warfare in their own backyards.

GMO Free USA has called on a boycott on Scotts Miracle-Gro: "You can spray your whole yard with Roundup and your grass won't die. Then your children and pets can frolic in carcinogens."GMO Free USA

Interestingly, Bloomberg reported earlier this year that Monsanto and Scotts have petitioned the USDA to remove restrictions on the creeping bentgrass that was inadvertently set wild from the lab more than 10 years ago. They are not seeking to sell the grass but to destroy it. Scotts spokesman Jim King told Bloomberg they want deregulation so when the grass is found growing wild, it won't trigger environmental concerns and can be eradicated like any other weed.

Nathan Donley, Ph.D., a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, wrote for Oregon Live that after all these years, Monsanto and Scotts are still fighting the invasive bentgrass with "herbicides even more toxic than Roundup." He adds that the companies are seeking deregulation because "if the USDA grants their petition, the ongoing invasion suddenly becomes Oregon's problem, not Scotts' and Monsanto's."

Concerns about GMOs aside, in previous EcoWatch posts, we mentioned how wasteful and purely ornamental lawns can be. California residents, for instance, are encouraged to let their turf go brown in order to preserve the drought-ridden state's precious water.

Plastic bails, left, and aluminum bails, right, are photographed at the Green Waste material recovery facility on Thursday, March 28, 2019, in San Jose, California. Aric Crabb / Digital First Media / Bay Area News via Getty Images

By Courtney Lindwall

Coined in the 1970s, the classic Earth Day mantra "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" has encouraged consumers to take stock of the materials they buy, use, and often quickly pitch — all in the name of curbing pollution and saving the earth's resources. Most of us listened, or lord knows we tried. We've carried totes and refused straws and dutifully rinsed yogurt cartons before placing them in the appropriately marked bins. And yet, nearly half a century later, the United States still produces more than 35 million tons of plastic annually, and sends more and more of it into our oceans, lakes, soils, and bodies.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Rise and Resist activist group marched together to demand climate and racial justice. Steve Sanchez / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Alexandria Villaseñor

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

My journey to becoming an activist began in late 2018. During a trip to California to visit family, the Camp Fire broke out. At the time, it was the most devastating and destructive wildfire in California history. Thousands of acres and structures burned, and many lives were lost. Since then, California's wildfires have accelerated: This past year, we saw the first-ever "gigafire," and by the end of 2020, more than four million acres had burned.

Read More Show Less
Trending
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a pair of climate-related secretarial orders on Friday, April 16. U.S. Department of the Interior

By Jessica Corbett

As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.

Read More Show Less
David Attenborough narrates "The Year Earth Changed," premiering globally April 16 on Apple TV+. Apple

Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.

Read More Show Less