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posted by janrinok on Monday January 09 2017, @02:27AM   Printer-friendly
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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  • (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.

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  • (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) 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 [] 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.