|By Maryann Whitman
An experimental, genetically modified
grass, designed for golf courses, has
been found in the wild, several miles
from its test site.
In the May/June
I included a brief mention of genetically
modified (GM), Roundup-Ready Creeping
Bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera
Scott’s and Monsanto
are testing this plant, hoping to provide
it for use in lawns and golf courses.
The EPA, which has been monitoring the test
plots, has found pollen and specimens as far
as 13 miles downwind. Some of the plants found
outside the test site, reports New
had grown from seeds produced by the GM parent.
Others were hybrids derived from a non-GM plant
being pollinated by
one of the modified specimens.
Department of Agriculture has ordered
a full environmental audit of its impact
and spread to determine the threat to
wildlife. Unlike GM crops, such as maize and soybeans,
which are annuals and unable to reproduce,
the perennial grass was able to produce
seeds during outdoor tests. While the
transgenic component of the plant might not in
itself pose a problem, the hardy strain could
replace many other native grasses if it gains
a foothold, ecologists say.
In deciding whether
the grass should be deregulated for the
commercial market, officials will consider
how widespread the grass could become.
grass-seed industry, which produces some
70% of seed for U.S. gardeners and groundskeepers,
is based in the Willamette Valley, less
than 60 miles away from the test site. If the
bentgrass reaches there, it would be very hard
While being a pre-European-settlement
native in only a few northern states
of the U.S., creeping bentgrass is now
found in all the continental states except
Oklahoma. To most of the states it was
brought in from Europe as a
forage plant in the mid-1700s.
of this corporate experiment could affect
the entire country.
Maryann is Editor of the Wild Ones Journal, and comes to the position with an extensive background in environmental matters of all kinds.
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