Photo: clearly ambiguous via flickr
After lunch on Friday July 1 — when most people were looking to the long weekend rather than the news — the U.S. Department of Agriculture slipped a significant announcement past the public.Using a loophole in regulatory proceedings, the USDA decided that Scotts Miracle-Gro’s herbicide-resistant Kentucky bluegrass will be exempt from tests required of other genetically modified crops.
According to The New York Times the decision frees Scott to sell the grass without any federal approval and without conducting any field trials.
Wired picked up the story and further points out this species is resistant to Roundup, requiring more of the chemical to be applied in the environment. The more Roundup used, the greater the resistance developed by the weeds of the world, much like bacteria become immune to antibiotics.
“The industry hasn’t developed a new herbicide in a long time. When resistance develops to something like glyphosate [Roundup], it’s not like we can move to some new chemical,” said Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Many species of Kentucky Bluegrass are classified as weeds and it’s expected cross-breeding will occur. Norman Ellstrand of UC Irvine says:
“I don’t know what other bluegrass species it’s cross-compatible with, but I can say with 98 per cent certainty that it’s cross-compatible with some,” said Ellstrand. “If this plant grows and flowers at the same time as other bluegrass, they’ll flourish. You’ll have a new incidence of herbicide resistance getting into the wild.”
So, as farmers, landscapers, and homeowners seek to kill the new Roundup resistant weeds they’ll be forced to use more chemical and eventually be forced back to the more toxic herbicides of the past.
Scotts skirted the law by using new technology rather than a dated process requiring bacteria. With no active bacteria invoking the Plant Protection Act, the process avoids regulation.
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