By: Nathan Donley
High on a wind-swept, mountain-ringed plateau in Central Oregon, an ocean of natural grasses, sagebrush and juniper sweeps across the Crooked River National Grassland for thousands of acres. In this pristine, high desert landscape roamed by antelope and mountain lions and patrolled by falcons, eagles and hawks, the last thing you'd want to see is an invasion of a highly intrusive, genetically engineered (GE) strain of creeping bentgrass designed specifically for golf courses.
But that's exactly what happened back in 2003 after Monsanto and Scotts convinced the U.S. Department of Agriculture to let them perform a field trial of their experimental GE grass designed to withstand heavy doses of the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup.
Predictably, the ultralight grass seeds and beyond the original 400-acre experimental plot outside the town of Madras, and the Roundup-resistant bentgrass began popping up beyond the field trial area, including in the
Though the test plot was closed down, the experimental grass has proved nearly impossible to eradicate — the exact scenario that spurred the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to express grave concerns about how the grass would affect threatened and endangered species in Oregon.
Over a dozen years later, Monsanto and Scotts are still fighting to control the damaging GE bentgrass contamination, using herbicides even more toxic than Roundup to beat back the invasive bentgrass wherever it continues to show up, year after year.
But now the two companies have come up with a clever plan to bring an end to their responsibility of cleaning up their mess in Oregon. The companies have to de-regulate the bentgrass seed that's still spreading across Central and Eastern Oregon. But in the petition, the companies claim they have no intention of selling the seeds.
The reason they are willing to go through the long, expensive deregulation process is simple: If the USDA grants their petition, the ongoing invasion suddenly becomes Oregon's problem, not Scotts' and Monsanto's.
Equally troubling is that, once the bentgrass is deregulated, the USDA would no longer have the authority to monitor whether Scotts and Monsanto keep their word about not selling these seeds. With the recent approval of Roundup-resistant and these companies are moving aggressively to dominate the grass seed market. And, without any legal hurdles in their way, there could be extreme pressure to eventually sell these seeds.
The USDA recently opened a on the deregulation request, offering Oregonians an important chance to weigh in on who should have to pay, moving forward, for the legacy of Monsanto's and Scotts' careless work in Central Oregon. And the message we send should be clear: When you decide to plant an invasive, laboratory-created grass in the environment, you need to be willing to accept not just the profits, but full responsibility for any problems you cause.
That shouldn't be negotiable.
Originally Published: Oregon Live