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GMO’s – here we go again with Monsanto, this time it’s our grass

Photo credit – holdsworthdesign via Flickr

Even though this grass problem started in Oregon, it is not the type that they smoke up there. This is about the grass grown on your lawns and that grows wild in the national parks. In 1997 Scott’s, the large company that brought you Miracle-Gro partnered with Monsanto to create a Roundup ready genetically modified grass for golf courses.  That GMO grass had several benefits: it would require half the amount of fertilizer to grow; the grass grows at half the rate of normal grass (requiring less cutting and maintenance) and it was resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup which would allow gardeners to spray Roundup to kill weeds without worrying about it destroying their lawns. Scotts also benefits from Roundup because it is a distributor.

The problem is that before the GMO grass was approved by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Scotts screwed up and allowed the GMO grass to escape and spread. It has been mating with non-GMO grass not only near the original containment area, but has also been spreading due to winds and likely hitching a ride on insects.  Scientists from Oregon State University and the Environmental Protection Agency found that the modified grass had crossed with feral grasses, passing along its Roundup resistance.

Despite eradication efforts by Scotts, the GMO grass – a variety of “bentgrass”  continues to spread. The project ended in 2006 thanks to an expose’ article by the NY Times.  Unfortunately it cannot be eradicated by weedkiller, thanks to its Roundup resistance. Only mechanical removal will work. But unfortunately for Scott’s it was is too little, too late.  Scotts has basically given up on the possibility of eradication of this GMO grass.

This inadvertent contamination of both wild and farmed crops by GMO species has caused numerous lawsuits across the country due to spread by insect pollination, winds, and neighboring farms switching from non-GMO methods to GMO seeds. In a Kansas City federal courtroom last year, Midwest corn growers launched a massive class-action lawsuit against Syngenta AG.  Northwest wheat farmers have been detecting GMO wheat invading their crops.  Trace amounts of the genetically modified Liberty Link rice, developed by Bayer but at the time not approved for human consumption, were found in U.S. long-grain rice stocks in 2006 for which Bayer paid $750 million to settle similar complaints filed by Southern U.S. rice growers.

On September 15, 2016 Bayer agreed to purchase Monsanto for $66 billion in cash.  It is a small irony that many of these GMO products cannot be sold by Bayer or Monsanto in Europe, headquarters of Bayer, due to the European Community’s ban on GMO’s.

It’s hard to put that genie back in its bottle once the winds and insects get a hold of it even when the GMO crops have not even been approved.

Sometimes I get out of the wind and away from the GMO pollen by taking a dive.  In this case the reefs I was photographing were in the very early stages of damage due to increasing seawater temperatures caused by global warming. But it is still a good place to escape to. It seems that everywhere has some sort of problem these days.

Belize reef showing early signs of bleaching

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