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.
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.
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