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Scotts-Monsanto GM Grass Threatens National Forests, Rivers, Ranchers, and Farmers

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Now biotech companies want local residents to pay the costs of clean-up! Action Alert!

Over a decade ago, Scotts partnered with Monsanto to market a GM bentgrass resistant to glyphosate (Roundup). It was planted next to the Malheur National Forest in test plots ostensibly controlled by Oregon State University. Unbeknownst to most people, it was also planted all over the US—in California, Iowa, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and seventeen other states.

It was supposed to be confined and controlled, but it very quickly escaped and spread out of the test plots in Oregon into Idaho, and crossbred with natural grasses to create new breeds that were also resistant to glyphosate. It clogged up irrigation ditches, threatening food crops and contaminating pasture-raised cattle with GMOs. In addition to the immediate threats to farmers and ranchers, grass seed—which is among Oregon’s top five commodities—is now under threat.

Initially, Scotts-Monsanto tried to stop the spread and clean up the contamination. But it was unable to do so because the original bentgrass (and now the other grasses it cross-pollinated with) are glyphosate-resistant. More toxic herbicides have been brought in to try to keep irrigation ditches clear, and to stop the grasses from clogging and eventually killing waterways important to wildlife and humans.

Now, according to The Oregonian, Scotts-Monsanto is walking away from the monster it created, leaving farmers, ranchers, wildlife, and eventually the fishing industry (if it spreads to the Columbia River) to deal with it. The current conundrum is that herbicides necessary to kill the invasive GM grasses are toxic to aquatic life, including fish. Soon the grasses will become resistant to even the most toxic chemicals, and nothing will eradicate the invasive grasses but heavy equipment.

Worst of all, the effects of GM products replacing natural grasses and plants on wildlife were completely predictable.

Scotts-Monsanto was fined $500,000, the maximum penalty under the Plant Protection Act, and agreed never to sell GM bentgrass. In addition, the companies were ordered to eradicate the GM nuisance in irrigation districts so farmers could continue farming.

But the federal government is apparently stepping in to help Scotts-Monsanto avoid liability. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently deregulated the GM grass, a move that shifts the burden of controlling GM bentgrass from Scotts-Monsanto to local landowners and American taxpayers.

The law is clear: if a plant poses a risk, the USDA is not to deregulate it. Scotts-Monsanto has already signed an agreement not to sell the product. So why is the USDA violating the law and deregulating GM bentgrass? Why would Scotts-Monsanto ask that it be deregulated when it has agreed not to sell it? It may be because GM bentgrass has been planted all over the United States, and when it’s discovered that the Oregon scenario is happening in every state, Scotts-Monsanto can pin it on the government and the taxpayers avoiding responsibility for costly clean-ups.

There are precedents for farmers and consumers holding biotech companies legally accountable in these scenarios. Midwestern corn growers filed a class-action lawsuit against Syngenta last year, claiming the company’s GM corn contaminated their crops and cost them billions in international sales. In 2011, Bayer paid $750 million to Southern rice growers in a similar scenario.

We hope justice is done in Oregon, and the parties responsible for this mess are forced to clean it up.

Action Alert! Tell the USDA to stop offering legal liability protection to biotech companies. Please send your message immediately.

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  • 2Betty2

    Oregon’s U.S. Senators Wyden and Merkley on Jan. 19th, 2017, urged the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to reconsider, re-regulate this genetically engineered herbicide-resistant weedy grass, Agrostis stolonifera. It’s already formed hybrids in central Oregon with redtop (Agrostis gigantea) and rabbit’s-foot-grass (Polypogon monspeliensis), also weedy non-native grasses. It jumped the river from Idaho to eastern Oregon. Help those Senators! We’ve a new noxious weed.

  • Dust of the Earth

    “Only heavy equipment” can remove it? What about burning the grass? While resistant to glyphosate and other herbicides, I bet it’s not resistant to fire. As long as fire crews make sure the flames don’t get out of control, I don’t see a problem. Much of the western part of our country is a fire-dependent ecosystem anyway, so a widespread burn like this might benefit the land and help native species reestablish themselves. Of course, I doubt Scotts or Monsanto would ever think of a strategy like this. They can only conceptualize a single method of plant removal – more herbicides.

    • 2Betty2

      Look at what the Argus Observer’s been reporting about this for several years. And it’s too scattered for widespread burning. It’s not resistant to some other herbicides, but none of them have been registered for use around water, like the irrigation canals. Oregon’s Malheur County Weed Board is savvy to get used what would work, but in over a decade now, the grass is winning out.

  • MarkDonners

    Monsanto is a terrorist organization, and must be dealt with as a terrorist organization. Any lawmakers that protect Monsanto are complicit in terrorism.

  • Truth4All

    When is our Government going to learn they have sold their souls to the devil, and this country along with them.

  • LONGBOREDTERRIE

    Monsanto just merged with Bayer 2 chemical leaders bring more products for us to market
    what could possibly go wrong ?