(Photo Credit: Noel Lopez)
Anywhere you might live in Southern Ontario, you are very likely to have a lawn, or at least to be near to one. As biotechnology changes and develops, more and more things that we previously assumed were remaining unchanged, have actually been changing all along. Even our innocent lawns. If your lawn isn’t invaded by “weeds”, it’s very likely that it grows some variety of Kentucky Bluegrass. This grass species is prized among landscapers and lawn-enthusiasts the world over for its drought-resistance, thickness, toughness and overall ability to not wilt at the first sign of a sunbeam. However, I recently ordered a new supply of kits for my office, and some of the pieces that were included mentioned genetically engineered (GE) bluegrass. I became curious and did some research about it. Was it even possible that this was a real plant? Potentially 5 feet from my door? (Resist the urge to panic. This article is not meant to cause you grief, but to help you learn a little more along with me about how we can steward the things that we are responsible for. No panicking allowed.) In my digging, I discovered that in 1998, the Scott’s Miracle-Gro Company (famous for lawn and turf builder) had entered into an agreement with Monsanto (famous for…other things), and that they were now officially in collaboration with one another, sharing all their technological prowess and in 1999 making Scott’s Miracle-Gro Company the exclusive world-wide distributor for Monsanto’s infamous Round Up!™ weed killer. (1).
(Photo Credit: Vectorbeast)
According to the New York Times, Scott’s, working with Monsanto, have developed a genetically engineered Kentucky Bluegrass species that is resistant to Round-Up!™. However, in 2011 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicated that their Animal and Plant Health Inspection Survey (APHIS) had no regulatory authority over this plant species because it was not engineered using any “pest” materials or genes. It was engineered solely using corn, rice and Arabidopsis plants genes spliced into the Bluegrass. (2). This information raises some really interesting thoughts. If the sale of commercial GE Bluegrass is not regulated in the United States, then it could easily be unknowingly sold to other countries via seed export. If this is true, then it is completely likely that farmers looking to raise organic-grade cattle would have a difficult time meeting the certification criteria to sell their beef as organic if the cattle are feeding on engineered grass, as this would contravene their stringent standards. Another concern raised by the New York Times and several other media outlets was regarding “super weeds”. The best way that I can think to describe what this would be would be to refer to a similar bacteriological phenomenon. The heavy use of antibiotics in medical practices have brought about something called a “superbug”. Through exposure of bacteria to a certain antibiotic, the bacteria can develop an immunity to the antibiotic. The antibiotic does kill some of the bacteria (the weaker strains), but sometimes is left with a strain that has become immune to the effects of the medication. (The process is slightly more complex than this, but for the sake of the topic at hand, this explanation is sufficient). “Super weeds” seem to be a similar product. The grass is resistant to Round-Up!™, and so you can spray it and it won’t die, but eventually, you may have killed off all of the “weaker” weeds, and are left with those that don’t die when sprayed, impacting the biodiversity of more than one plant.
(Photo Credit: Paul Jarvis)
Truthfully, I haven’t interviewed local sod growers, and so I can’t tell you where their grass seed is sourced from, but Bluegrass is an interesting plant to have been altered, because it is already an invasive species. It spreads happily to lots of places. For example; in the Canadian Prairies, the Government of Canada monitor prairie land reserves, and one of the invasive species they have noticed moving into the area over the past forty years is Kentucky Bluegrass. (3). Considering that Scott’s is a very immensely large corporation, it is likely that even local sod farmers may be buying Scott’s seeds that may or may not be engineered. It seems a little bit clever on the part of Scott’s and Monsanto to not include any “pest” genes in developing this resistant plant, so that there was no review required by APHIS. It’s possible that this may set a precedent for other engineered products to be designed this way to avoid regulatory red-tape and go directly to the commercial marketplace. I’m confident that the ramifications of this aren’t fully understood yet. It does, however, give us an excellent opportunity to discuss stewardship. Each of us are responsible for how we conduct ourselves and the choices that we make. Individuals might not have a global reach, but by continuing to learn about what is happening in the world, we can become equipped to make decisions about how we will care for the things that we are responsible for. Don’t let the scope of this overwhelm you. And don’t go into your yard and rip up the sod (no one wants unhappy neighbors). Weeds are all about perspective. When I was first married, we went into the back yard to “weed”. I’d never had a lawn of my own, and so I was concerned about what I should and should not rip up. How would I know what a real weed was? (I like the wildflowers that grow in the ditch, which I am told are “weeds”, so I didn’t want to go astray in my first lawn forays). My husband gave very sound advice. He said “A weed is whatever you don’t like in the garden. If you like it, it can stay, but if you don’t, just pull it up.” According to APHIS, Kentucky Bluegrass is actually classified as a “noxious weed”, but not a “Federal noxious weed”. Here is the fact sheet that APHIS has published regarding GE Kentucky Bluegrass. (This isn’t an issue of semantics. The classifications indicate whether the US Federal Government is directly involved with exterminating a certain plant). In relation to what an R. BIE does, the bluegrass issue is very interesting. Recently, people who have had BIE sessions many years ago dealing with environmental bioenergetic stressors were having recurrences of symptoms that their bodies had not been producing for almost a decade. After some investigating, they discovered that it was because the types of plants present in the environment had changed (example: their grass). And after receiving further BIE sessions and biofeedback analysis testing for new energetic stressors(including GE Kentucky Bluegrass), their body ceased to produce these symptoms again. I’m always amazed at how connected the world has become and decisions that a single corporation make can impact so many people. Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever heard about genetically engineered Kentucky Bluegrass! What other things have you learned about it? Let’s keep the conversation going, because I’m interested to hear what information you might have! (Leave sources if you’re able!). You can also connect with me via Twitter and Facebook! Also, we are working on a newsletter, and if you’d like to sign up to receive it, you can do that from our Facebook page! (It will be for occasional special offers and updates from our office!) Take care, and have a great day!
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