Daily News Archive
Finds Genetically Engineered Genes Drifting Miles
(Beyond Pesticides, September 22, 2004) US
government officials announced yesterday findings of genes from genetically
engineered (GE) bentgrass pollinating grasses 13 miles away, carried
by ultra-light pollen particles, according to Reuters.
The research was published in this week’s issue of Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences, and conducted by Lidia Watrud
The subject of Watrud’s
research was a form of creeping bentgrass genetically modified to resist
adverse effects of the herbicide glyphosate, developed by Scotts Company.
Since the GE grass is resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup (active
it allows farmers and other users of the grass to broadcast spray the
chemical without worrying about damaging the grass. Environmentalists
have expressed concern over the resulting increased volume of toxic
pesticide placed in the ecosystem. Another concern is the drift of the
modified genes resulting in contamination of other grasses. This is
exactly what Watrud had found. Her research offers the strongest evidence
yet of the difficulty in controlling the spread and interbreeding of
Watrud tracked the bentgrass on experimental cropfields in central Oregon.
Reuters reports that the researchers collected seeds from naturally
occurring grasses and from plants they grew in pots to catch any wayward
pollen. They grew the seeds and tested the new grass seedlings to see
if they were resistant to Roundup. They found such resistant seedlings
as far away as 13 miles, although most were much closer.
The problem with crossbreeding of drifting GE genes involves the development
of “superweeds,” which can happen when an herbicide resistant
crop gene crosses with a weedy relative, resulting in weeds that are
resistant to herbicides. This will lead to ineffective increased herbicide
use because farmers will spray the superweeds repeatedly, unaware that
the weeds are herbicide-resistant. Also, weeds that have cross-pollinated
with GE crops bred to resist insect may become invasive, spreading beyond
their natural habitat and out-competing native plants.
Despite these problems, Scotts Company is pushing for use of this product.
Meghan Thomas of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
said in a telephone interview, "Scotts has petitioned us to deregulate
the product." However, the agency had already decided to conduct
an environmental impact statement, a process that can take a year or
sometimes longer, keeping the bentgrass from the market. Thomas stated,
"We will go out there and we will take a look at the data, we will
look at the field tests. This is a perennial and it has some wild and
weedy relatives and this the first perennial that has come in to us
TAKE ACTION: Contact the USDA’s Animal
and Plant Health Inspection Service and voice your concerns regarding
the bentgrass they are assessing. Use information from Beyond Pesticides’
Genetic Engineering Program Page, including
the article 10
Reasons to Say No to Genetically Engineered Crops and Foods.