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posted by janrinok on Monday January 09 2017, @02:27AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the but-it's-safe-I-tell-you dept.

Sometime around 2003 Scotts GMO grass crop in Idaho escaped its plot and blew across the Snake River into Oregon up to 30 miles away. The crop in question is a Roundup ready creeping bentgrass that is used for putting greens. Regulators and locals are in for a fight as Scotts is ready to abandon the ongoing approximately $250,000 per year effort to eradicate the grass in favor of running an informative website on Roundup ready bentgrass removal. Scotts canceled the development program because the golf industry is experiencing a decline, yet the company still wants the product deregulated.

Locals are left holding the bag as it threatens Oregon's international reputation as a "GMO-free" grass-grower and its seed industry. Regardless of whether direct genetic modification is bad in and of itself, grasses are an important crop for the state. Additionally, the grass has been found interbreeding with other feral grasses. Interestingly, the company has hired an attorney that specializes in bio-diversity to defend its interests.

The battle pits farmer against farmer, regulator against regulator, seller against buyer. Scotts spokesman Jim King insists the company has done its part and significantly reduced the modified grass's territory. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which for 14 years had refused to deregulate the controversial grass on environmental concerns, suddenly reversed course last fall and signaled it could grant the company's request as early as this week.

Many find the prospect alarming. The Oregon and Idaho departments of agriculture oppose deregulation, as does U.S. Fish and Wildlife, which predicted commercialization of the grass could drive endangered species to extinction.


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Monsanto No More 52 comments

Monsanto, a brand name activists love to hate, will disappear as Bayer takes over:

These days Monsanto is shorthand for, as NPR's Dan Charles has put it, "lots of things that some people love to hate": Genetically modified crops, which Monsanto invented. Seed patents, which Monsanto has fought to defend. Herbicides such as Monsanto's Roundup, which protesters have sharply criticized for its possible health risks. Big agriculture in general, of which Monsanto was the reviled figurehead.

And soon Monsanto will be no more. Bayer, the German pharmaceutical giant and pesticide powerhouse, announced in 2016 it would be buying Monsanto in an all-cash deal for more than $60 billion. Now, as the merger approaches, Bayer has confirmed what many suspected: In the merger, the politically charged name "Monsanto" will be disappearing. The combined company will be known simply as Bayer, while product names will remain the same. The move is not exactly a surprise — it makes sense that Bayer might want to weed out some of the intense negative associations associated with the Monsanto brand. In a way, it's an indication of how successful anti-Monsanto protesters have been in shaping public perception.

In the company's latest statement, Bayer implicitly acknowledged how hostile debates over genetically modified crops and other agricultural products have become. "We aim to deepen our dialogue with society. We will listen to our critics and work together where we find common ground," the chairman of Bayer's board of management, Werner Baumann, said in the statement. "Agriculture is too important to allow ideological differences to bring progress to a standstill. We have to talk to each other. We need to listen to each other. It's the only way to build bridges."

Also at Reuters.

Previously: Bayer AG Offers to Buy Monsanto
Bayer Purchases Monsanto for Around $66 Billion

Roundup: Monsanto Ordered to Pay $93M to Small Town for Poisoning Citizens
RoundUp Glyphosate Found to Cause Kidney Failure and Elude Tests
Cancer Hazard vs. Risk - Glyphosate
Use of Dicamba-Resistant Monsanto Crops Leads to Soybean Death
GMO Grass That 'Escaped' Defies Eradication, Divides Grass Seed Industry
Glyphosate Linked to Liver Damage


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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by BK on Monday January 09 2017, @02:54AM

    by BK (4868) on Monday January 09 2017, @02:54AM (#451298)

    I seem to remember some stories about farmers growing corn or soybeans or something (or both!) without paying royalties for roundup readiness and getting sued into oblivion (or compliance). It seems like this would be a great case for someone to sue for the right to use these things when they blow in... If Scotts or whoever can't be bothered to control their stuff they should, at the least, legally lose control.

    --
    ...but you HAVE heard of me.
    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by anubi on Monday January 09 2017, @07:08AM

      by anubi (2828) on Monday January 09 2017, @07:08AM (#451350) Journal

      This was when I was a kid, but my Grandpa had run-ins with Monsanto over his corn crop.

      My Grandpa did farming as he learned from his father, and so on, as it had been done since the land was given to my ancestors in exchange for them colonizing the area and growing food crops. For eons, the farmers saved a bit of corn as seed for the next year.

      On Grandpa's farm, it seemed all they imported into the farm was fertilizer, diesel fuel, and tractor parts. He had cows, horses, goats, chickens, hogs, numerous dogs and cats. Each had their thing to do, and when one follows the food chain, corn fed 'em all. You could consider Grandpa's entire operation nearly entirely running on solar power, with the corn crop being the energy converter. Corn never went to waste.... there was never any leftover. If it wasn't eaten or planted, it was fermented into moonshine, which also had a number of uses on the farm besides a currency for trade.

      Then one day, Monsanto comes a knockin' and tells Grandpa that he has to buy Monsanto's seed. That did not go over very well. Grandpa was of the understanding that he did all the work of growing that corn, plowing, fertilizing, harvesting, and he was thereby entitled to the fruit of his labor. Corporate Monsanto thought otherwise, and not only that, they had shaken hands with Congressmen to have law passed enforcing their right to force Grandpa to Monsanto's will.

      There has been mistrust in my family against people like Monsanto ever since. Even to this day, I see a man dressed in suit and tie and I am highly distrustful - maybe like the guy who wears a ski mask into a bank. He's dressed just like the men I have known that use handshakes with Congressmen to compel their wishlist onto other people. Men who won't work for a living, instead knowing how to game the system to compel others to support them handsomely.

      --
      "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10 2017, @12:55AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10 2017, @12:55AM (#451791)

        Did your grandpa accede to their demands and purchase Monsanto corn seed/pay licensing fees for 'contaminated' corn crops?

        Did your grandpa eventually become financially insolvent as a result of this?

        Is the farm still in your family, or was it one of Monsanto's bankrupt and buy schemes?

        • (Score: 2, Interesting) by anubi on Tuesday January 10 2017, @07:14AM

          by anubi (2828) on Tuesday January 10 2017, @07:14AM (#451923) Journal

          Grandpa wasn't making much money, but enough to pay taxes, buy whatever he needed, keep a wife and four kids fed, clothed, and educated, and not a day on welfare.

          He worked his ass off. Took care of himself, his family, and several of his neighbors. He fed quite a few people in addition to his animals.

          Money, like blood, was in limited supply. There was the problem. Monsanto was after his money. And they had the ideal extortion tool. Not a gun. Congress.

          My family had that farm for over a hundred years. It was sold off to a big conglomerate when Grandpa died - when I was a teenager. To pay for Grandma's nursing home charges.

          Folks like Monsanto knew how to rig the game to force people like my Grandpa to fork over what little money he had for something he didn't even want, by using Congress as a prostitute to pen law for them, as once their wishlist was codified into Law, folks that failed to obey the Will of the Suited and Tied Hand Shaker would be criminalized.

          Hands wielding pens took the took the farm from hands wielding plows - backed up by law enforcement whose salaries were paid by the taxes Grandpa was assessed.

          On one side, a major conglomerate runs the farm a lot more cost-effective. No more animals. All corn. All completely automated.

          On the other side, a small guy was crushed, and the lesson taught well that it takes suit-and-tie work, knowing how the Law-making process works, and how to legally force others to work for you usually via legal or financial chicanery that makes one wealthy, not hard work.

          Our Congress seems deadly intent on working with lobbyists to turn this entire nation into a nation of beggars.
           

          --
          "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Bot on Monday January 09 2017, @02:54AM

    by Bot (3902) on Monday January 09 2017, @02:54AM (#451299) Journal

    Damage occurs.
    Responsible party pays according to the damage inflicted, or even better, restores the original situation at his expense.

    Oh we sell GMO but they escaped and now ruin people whose business is guess what Non GMOs? You should sell the GMO at the right price to get insurance and offset these risks and pay up and shut up.

    Oh we sell nuclear energy but the insurance will not cover the costs of recovery from an incident?
    You should sell it at the proper price to recoup costs of the statistically certain in the long run fuck up which would also shut up people rooting from fission as if it wasn't a way to make atomic weapons while thorium reactors and LENR are basically left unexplored.

    Oh our product will pollute the environment when thrown out? You should put the cost of disposing right into the original price and make disposal free for all. No more waste mafia profits.

    Capitalism and free market might just work, a pity it is not enforced anywhere.

    --
    Account abandoned.
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Monday January 09 2017, @03:41AM

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 09 2017, @03:41AM (#451304) Homepage Journal

      ^^ that right there.

      Scotts should be liable for all damages, period. If it means they are bankrupted, and put out of business, so be it. Investors? Tough shit - you should have invested in something safer.

      --
      “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.” ― George S. Patton on Ukraine
      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday January 09 2017, @01:58PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 09 2017, @01:58PM (#451444)

        The problem is you're talking about implementing currently legal solutions, as if the whole problem isn't the legal system being horribly broken.

        IRL an analogy I like to use is imagine a legal system where if my dog takes a shit on your front lawn I can sue you until you pay me off or I get your land, which ever comes first. That unfortunately is pretty much how agriculture works legally in the USA WRT seed.

        Now imagine I have an unholy genetically modified bear-honey badger-wolf-crossbreed dog that shits on your lawn and I can sue you and take your house.

        Complaining about how unholy violation of purity laws it is to create and own a BearBadgerWolf puppy is pointless because 1) I'm sure its really cute puppy and 2) the legal system that gives me ownership of whatever my dog contaminates with poop is the actual problem and for "corporate control" reasons oddly enough the corporate media won't ever discuss that issue, all we're gonna hear about on the 5 oclock corporate news infotainment show is endless handwaving by politically active actors and musicians about how bad its going to be when a cross breeding experiment involving Eagles and Mosquitos goes horribly wrong.

        I'm just saying if the legal system is how you got into this mess, trusting the (unchanged) legal system to get you out is a bit optimistic. Gotta go outside the legal system (not necessarily vigilante, I'm talking like maybe regulation of some sort) or change the legal system by bribing the right legislators.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @02:55AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @02:55AM (#451300)

    So if they can't ethically put in a terminator gene, the least they could do is put in extra susceptibility to some form of herbicide. Farmers who want the stuff can spray round-up, but farmers who dodn't want the stuff can spray an herbicide that doesn't normally kill grass.

    Of course that doesn't help when it interbreeds and evolves away from that susceptibility. But it would be better than nothing.

    • (Score: 2) by fishybell on Monday January 09 2017, @03:50AM

      by fishybell (3156) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 09 2017, @03:50AM (#451308)

      ...and after it interbreeds with other grasses, they *all* have the terminator gene. It makes the follow up product of "won't be accidentally eradicated by terminator gene" all that much more appealing.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @04:54AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @04:54AM (#451323)

      Who says they can't ethically put the terminator gene in there? The issue with the terminator gene is that Monsanto was using it as a means of forcing farmers to buy new seed year after year.

      Personally, I think that it ought to be mandatory for any and all GMO for the very reason that it makes problems like the one in the story much less likely to occur.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @05:23AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @05:23AM (#451333)

        If grass had a terminator gene then you'd be forced to constantly replant it year after year. Though some people seem to do that anyway...

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @05:46AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @05:46AM (#451335)

          I see no problem with that. If you want grass that lasts more than one year, get something that isn't GMO.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @05:02AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @05:02AM (#451326)

      I know of a farmer (I rented a house on his farm) who has Roundup-resistant annual Ryegrass growing in his fields. He's never planted RR-ready seed (it's banned in the Willamette Valley). Annual Ryegrass is pretty persistent...
      Luckily, it's in a field he usually grew wheat or perennial rye grass in, so the seed is different enough it can be cleaned out from what he was intending to grow.
      Grass pollen can cross-pollinate to other similar grass types (perennial & annual Ryegrasses, etc). There are commercial hybrids between the two, btw...

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by fadrian on Monday January 09 2017, @03:47AM

    by fadrian (3194) on Monday January 09 2017, @03:47AM (#451306) Homepage

    All just so a bunch of stupid cunts can whack their balls all over the place.

    --
    That is all.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @04:07AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @04:07AM (#451311)

      Golfers may be stupid, but many of them are part of what I call "the country club set" also knows as the old boys club and more recently the 1%. In many communities these rich guys (maybe a few rich gals too?) call the shots behind the scenes. Of course a big company like Scotts would love to have them for customers.

    • (Score: 2) by GungnirSniper on Monday January 09 2017, @07:40AM

      by GungnirSniper (1671) on Monday January 09 2017, @07:40AM (#451359) Journal

      Isn't that what the Internet is for?

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by sjames on Monday January 09 2017, @05:07AM

    by sjames (2882) on Monday January 09 2017, @05:07AM (#451328) Journal

    So, the GMO industries have claimed at various times that their crops can't just pop up if they weren't deliberately planted and that their added traits can't just find their way into another variety. They've even used that to sue people for patent violations.

    It seems none of that is true. Meanwhile, Scott let this djinn out of the bottle, it's their responsibility to stuff it back in, no matter how long it takes or how much it costs.

    They were more than happy to call it their exclusive property when they thought it would make them a ton of money.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @05:51AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 09 2017, @05:51AM (#451337)

      That's been known for a very long time now. It's been years since these sorts of stories started popping up, and that's just when the stories started popping up, the problem is much older.

      And, anybody with a lick of common sense would have seen this coming. Unless you alter the genome to such an extent that the organism can no longer cross breed with any naturally occuring plants, it's just a matter of time before plants being planted with no control wind up infecting other plants.

      I get that it's expensive to keep these sorts of crops under proper quarantine, but what happens if they combine in unpredictable ways that cause serious problems? There's enough problems with things like Japanese Knotweed, Scot's Broom, Kudzu and purple lustrife without adding the GMO variable to it. All of those are perfectly fine when they're in their native habitat, but allow them to grow elsewhere and they become incredibly disruptive. I cringe at the thought of any of them with special resistances to herbicides.

    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday January 09 2017, @01:23PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 09 2017, @01:23PM (#451431)

      emotions on the topic run high and I wouldn't be surprised if an activist stole/bought some seed and threw it out a car window downwind to make the political point. If they aren't doing that, why not?

      The contaminant argument sounds extremely tasty, very dietary law / purity law which we have a cultural weakness for. However in practice I live in an area that's intensively gardened and its incredibly unlikely for my sunflower and tomato growing neighbor's plants to spring to life in the middle of my lawn or whatever. I live in a former forest biome and the little tree-let seed things are a bother and of course there's weeds and everyone fixates on that. And a roundup-proof marijuana weed might be seen as a problem, kinda. But in practice plant plagues (not plagues that attack plants, but plagues of actual plants) are very rare along the lines of getting hit by lightening. There are a handful of real world examples I can think of, kudzu in the south, that's about it.

      • (Score: 2) by Kromagv0 on Monday January 09 2017, @03:00PM

        by Kromagv0 (1825) on Monday January 09 2017, @03:00PM (#451464) Homepage

        But in practice plant plagues (not plagues that attack plants, but plagues of actual plants) are very rare along the lines of getting hit by lightening. There are a handful of real world examples I can think of, kudzu in the south, that's about it.

        Buckthorn is another that comes to mind but yes they are very few and far between.

        --
        T-Shirts and bumper stickers [zazzle.com] to offend someone
      • (Score: 2) by sjames on Monday January 09 2017, @06:31PM

        by sjames (2882) on Monday January 09 2017, @06:31PM (#451552) Journal

        There are many, it's just that some are not given much thought since they don't choke out everything else like kudzu.

        Weeds are a perfect example. We all get them, we have no idea how they got there, they do not go away. Where they are more managed, they get sprayed with various herbicides. Of course, most weeds aren't genetically altered to resist the most popular herbicide used.

        When not deliberately cultivated on a putting green, it is considered an invasive weed that is known to just pop up in people's yards. It is thought the primary means of spreading is from birds using bits of it for nesting.

        Given that the pattern of contamination is sparse and wide, it seems unlikely that someone grabbed a handful of seed and threw it out a car window.

        It is clear that you have never seen a yard invaded by wild violets. Best advice, give up. If you're truly desperate, remove all soil down to 3 feet and start over. Several years ago, some wild flowers just showed up in my back yard. They have been back every year since. Fortunately, I like them because they're not going away.

        Monsanto would have us believe their roundup ready Canola only grows where planted and doesn't cross breed, but it grows as a weed in some places and related species of plant have been found with the particular gene Monsanto added. Scotts bentgrass is doing much the same.

        It was their responsibility to keep it confined and they obviously failed. It is now their responsibility to round it up.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10 2017, @01:11AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10 2017, @01:11AM (#451798)

          Is people spraying weeds rather than physically removing them. For particularly invasive species, removing at least a foot of topsoil (which will eliminate anything short of bamboo or similiar 'long-rooted' regenerating plants.) and either irradiated, heated, or composted until the contaminants are gone. This is neither cheap or an easy process, plus having to replace the removed material and replanting to avoid soil erosion in the affected areas. However it is the only way to ensure the plan or soil contaminants are eliminated and ensures that future infestations, if caught early, can be mitigated with simpler weeding methods if the plants are not allowed to go to seed.

          Having said that, both corporations, local governments, and the federal government need to be taking responsibility for these contamination events happening. Until all three have the hot irons put to their feet this biological contamination issue is not going to be resolved, for either the farmers, landowners, or GMO rightsholders.

          As a followup: I still don't understand why GMO is given a 10+ year patent period rather than the 2 year seed patents that selective breeders recieve for a process that may have taken years to decades longer than splicing/replacing genes in normal crops. If 2 years is good enough for those guys, why isn't it good enough for the GMO crowd? Solving this issue by harmonizing those laws to the same 2 year period (rather than harmonizing both up to the 10+ year level) would go further to ensuring contamination is not an economically farm-ending prospect and would open the way for both GMO plants and animals to be bred 'As God Intended' (strictly as a way to market to the Christian values crowd) rather than forever shackling our future flora and fauna to corporate licensing initiatives.

  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday January 09 2017, @01:41PM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 09 2017, @01:41PM (#451439)

    Many find the prospect alarming.

    Pyramid power or pyramid theory sounds like a pot smoking 70s BS but stay with me.

    Real problems in engineering and politics often follow a pyramid structure with immense annoyance at the very wide base and a tapering shape as intensity increases up to rare disaster incidents at the top.

    So most rusting is just 90s and 00s automobiles with cosmetic damage that don't matter, and there's a hell of a lot of it, and thats the wide base of rust, and the tippy top is some bridge collapsed decades ago due to corrosion once, and that's quite an impressive disaster but its really rare and virtually all rust that happens in the world just makes cars look bad.

    Another analogy is Muslim terrorism. According to my Jewish coworkers with relations back home, for every 10 kids throwing rocks in your general direction due to peer pressure or WTF theres 1 kid actually aiming at you, for every 10 folks doing random suppressive fire in the air or in the general direction of your car there's 1 guy aiming an AK47 at you, for every 10 car bombs that half assed it but did technically blow up there's like 1 that was really well targeted and kills like 100 times as many people. Its very pyramidical, you can expect your windshield cracked like 100 times for every time someone takes a decent well aimed shot at you. This pyramid of terror BTW really triggered the hell out of people WRT the American 9/11, seriously we're going zero to maxed out in one attack and expect no one to think that odd or unlikely? Anyway non-false-flag terror attacks traditionally very pyramidal in shape, with a shitton of rocks for every bullet, a shitton of bullets for every arty shell, a shitton of arty shells for every jetliner landing in your skyscrapers assuming any of that was real, etc.

    In other words the problem needs to be managed but most of it is just a minor PITA despite breathless infotainment fake news TV.

    So we've all been promised that GMO will lead to earth looking like the dead surface of the moon or every baby is a three headed reptilian alien baby or zombie apocalypse we all gonna die, but the reality of GMO is there will be a vast and very wide pyramid of annoyance where the base is chemically unkillable lawn grass and similar annoyance with the peaks such as the zombie apocalypse being rather unlikely and rare.

    Its safe to predict from pyramid theory that for the next couple decades most GMO "malfunctions" are going to be minor PITA and even once we achieve the zombie apocalypse, the majority of GMO problems will, despite the occasional headliner disaster story, still continue to be minor annoyance category problems.

    This GMO grass is actually a very normal and predictable GMO failure, not a novelty.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10 2017, @11:53PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10 2017, @11:53PM (#452298)

      Its safe to predict from pyramid theory that for the next couple decades most GMO "malfunctions" are going to be minor PITA

      Gambler's fallacy, these are (mostly) independent events.

      I agree with your point in general, but this conclusion doesn't follow.
      We could safely predict they'd be a minor PITA before this happened, and this happening doesn't affect that in any way.