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WASHINGTON, July 1 (Reuters) - 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)