Monsanto Backs Away From Engineered Grass
Biotechnology giant Monsanto has withdrawn a proposal to commercialize genetically engineered (GE) creeping bentgrass.
Creeping bentgrass is a favored turfgrass for golf course greens, and is found in many other lawns across the country. Several concerned experts had warned the proposed engineered grass could become a so-called superweed.
The GE grass variety is resistant to the top selling weedkiller Roundup, a brand owned by Monsanto. Planting the GE grass would have allowed users to broadcast spray Roundup over lawns to kill weeds instead of spot spraying or hand pulling them.
In August, the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA), a nonprofit public interest group, filed a formal legal petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requesting a halt to its commercialization of engineered turfgrass. The CTA petition detailed problems surrounding the use of the gene altered grass, including increased use of herbicides and the potential for ecological and economic disruption.
This September, USDA regulatory officials sent Monsanto a letter listing deficiencies in its application, an action that the CTA considers a positive reaction to its petition.
The engineered grass was the first GE plant product aimed at non-agricultural markets, including golf courses, property managers and homeowners. Industry officials have said the potential market for GE lawn and garden products could approach $10 billion dollars a year.
“Commercialization of this grass would have been an environmental nightmare,” said CTA executive director Andrew Kimbrell. “Monsanto had no choice but to withdraw the product given the legal action taken by CTA and the USDA response.”
CTA’s petition also requested that GE glyphosate resistant creeping bentgrass be listed as a federally prohibited noxious weed. So far, the USDA has refused to consider CTA’s listing request for the GE variety due to the pending regulatory review.
“Now that Monsanto has withdrawn its application, we expect USDA will prohibit even experimental planting of this potential superweed,” said Peter Jenkins, CTA policy analyst.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.