WASHINGTON, July 1 An herbicide-tolerant
Kentucky bluegrass engineered by Scotts Miracle-Gro is not
covered by U.S. biotechnology rules nor is it a weed, the
Agriculture Department ruled on Friday.
The rulings responded to a query from Scotts (SMG.N) about
the regulatory status of the variety and a petition from two
consumer groups who wanted genetically engineered (GE) Kentucky
bluegrass listed as a noxious weed.
Kentucky bluegrass is grown throughout the United States as
a lawn grass and a pasture crop. Scotts said it developed the
herbicide-tolerant variety without using genetic materials that
require regulation. After review, USDA agreed.
USDA said it strongly urged Scotts, in the early stages of
developing the bluegrass, "to work with industry partners and
stakeholders and to develop appropriate and effective
stewardship measures." Organic farmers have complained of the
risk of contamination of their crops by biotech varieties.
The bluegrass is genetically engineered to tolerate the
weedkiller glyphosate, sold under brand names such as Roundup.
When Scotts, the world's largest marketer of brand-name
consumer lawn and garden products, wrote USDA last September to
ask if the bluegrass would be free of regulation, it said it
planned to begin agronomic field trials in coming months.
A request by Scotts and Monsanto Co (MON.N) for approval of
GE glyphosate-tolerant creeping bentgrass has been pending at
USDA since 2003.
In 2002, the consumer groups, Center for Food Safety and
International Center for Technology Assessment asked USDA to
list GE bluegrass and bentgrass as noxious weeds. USDA decided
in 2003 that bentgrass did not meet the criteria. The groups
sued in federal court and in 2007, the court overruled USDA and
told it to reconsider the question.
(Reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by David Gregorio)