The altered grass — which is difficult to kill because it’s been modified to withstand heavy applications of Roundup — escaped from test fields in Parma, where it subsequently took root in nearby areas of Idaho and Oregon. Surprisingly, the genetically modified grass began growing in eastern Oregon’s Malheur County, after jumping the Snake River from the test fields in Parma. There are also fears of contamination in the Willamette Valley, the region known as the “grass seed capital of the world” — with a billion-dollar-a-year industry at stake.
“Imagine I had a big, sloppy, nasty Rottweiler, and you lived next door in your perfectly manicured house,” said Bill Buhrig, an Oregon State University extension agent in Malheur County. “Then I dump the dog in your backyard, I take off and now it’s your problem.”
In light of the uncontrollable nature of the grass, the USDA’s deregulation decision is alarming to say the least. Both the Oregon and Idaho’s Departments of Agriculture are against deregulation, as is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which believes there’s a strong chance the commercialization of the grass could drive endangered species to extinction. One example is the Fender’s Blue Butterfly, unique to the Willamette Valley. Critical habitat of the insect would be severely threatened by the grass.
Moreover, scientists from Oregon State University and the Environmental Protection Agency discovered that the GM grass had crossed with wild grasses, passing along its Roundup resistance.
“The more a chemical is used consistently, the more likely that somebody’s weeds will become resistant. That’s standard, agreed-upon science,” said Douglas Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The way that Roundup is used because of transgenic crops exacerbates that problem.”
Currently, we’re seeing a major threat to agriculture because of these virtually indestructible “superweeds”, spawned by excessive use of the herbicide. Monsanto’s Roundup is already the most widely-used herbicide in the world — the commercialization of GM grass will inevitably push these numbers higher, which is exactly what we don’t need.
Numerous researchers have classified the herbicide as the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment, where it has been linked to a range of health disorders — including cancer, Parkinson’s disease and autism.
Beyond the environmental and health implications, many are concerned about the impact GM grass will have on the organic dairy and grassfed beef industry.
“As these seeds spread and more and more grass takes up that genetic trait, we’ll find organic farmers who want to grass feed their beef, can’t do it because their grass is genetically modified, which is prohibited in organic standards,” said Bill Duesing of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. “GMOs are pollution with a life of its own.” [source]