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Thursday, Oct. 14, 2004 07:12 pm

common sense 10-14-04


Thank you, Monsanto. Thank you, Scotts. These two pesticide giants have inadvertently demonstrated the scientific insanity of using Mother Nature as a lab rat in their rush to market bioengineered products.

Monsanto and Scotts recently teamed up to genetically alter a turfgrass called creeping bentgrass, primarily used on golf courses. The two corporations artificially manipulated the genes of this grass seed, not so the grass would require less water or less mowing but solely so it can absorb greater doses of the companies' pesticides, thus increasing corporate sales.

But scientists warned that this altered grass would spread its pollen to faraway grasslands, displace native species, create superweeds, and mess mightily with Mother Nature's delicate balance. Oh, don't be such worrywarts, said the companies: This grass has been thoroughly tested.

But their so-called tests wouldn't get a passing grade at a high-school science fair. One, for example, involved only a minuscule plot of a tenth of an acre and revealed that the pollen drifted just 1,400 feet . . . so no problem.

Cute, but now a serious test has been conducted by Environmental Protection Agency. "This is one of the first really realistic studies that has been done," admits the guy who did the tenth-of-an-acre test. Indeed, this real test was on 400 acres -- more like a real golf course. The pollen of these altered plants drifted not 1,400 feet but at least 13 miles.

What this makes clear is that the genetically altered corporate product is not only going to escape and contaminate our environment but also that it'll do so, as one expert now concedes, "a lot faster and a lot further than people anticipated."

It also makes it clear that we can't trust corporations that base their global safety claims on one-tenth of an acre.

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