Agencies refused to publicize spread of biotech bentgrass
By Mitch Lies
The Oregon Department of Agriculture and the USDA refused to alert the public that genetically modified bentgrass had spread from a test plot in Western Idaho to irrigation ditches in Eastern Oregon.
Carol Mallory-Smith, an Oregon State University weed scientist, made the discovery last month after she received samples from farmers in Malhuer County. The Roundup-resistant creeping bentgrass, under development by The Scott’s Co., isn’t approved for unrestricted commercial production.
She asked ODA and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the agency responsible for regulating the crop, to make the discovery public. Both declined.
Mallory-Smith believed it was important for farmers to be on the watch for the genetically modified bentgrass.
And she believed the information was potentially relevant to a lawsuit being waged in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. In the suit, federal Judge Jeffrey White is deciding whether to allow the restricted production of genetically engineered sugar beet stecklings.
White earlier this year halted production of Roundup Ready beets, pending a new environmental study.
“The issue for me was, I thought it should be disclosed to both sides of the sugar beet lawsuit,” Mallory-Smith said. “It may not have any legal implications, but in fairness to both sides, I thought it should be disclosed.”
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