A new genetically engineered grass variant won’t be subject to federal regulation, because it was modified with a gene gun rather than bacteria, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The new strain of Kentucky bluegrass will likely be growing on American lawns very soon, where it will withstand prodigious amounts of the herbicide Roundup. The decision has provoked concern about a new generation of suburban superweeds.
As regular readers are aware, many American food crops are already genetically modified to resist Roundup, a broad-spectrum herbicide developed by the chemical and seed company Monsanto Co. The insertion of a special gene confers resistance to glyphosate, the active chemical in Roundup, which allows the chosen plants to proliferate while the weeds die.But like bacteria evolving to fight antibiotics, weeds that are genetically predisposed to withstand it have been growing in increasingly large numbers. Now populations of Roundup-resistant “superweeds” have become such a problem that Monsanto gives farmers subsidies to spray other weed-killers along with Roundup. Several advocacy groups have cried foul over this recent USDA decision — announced late on a Friday before the holiday weekend — and claim it could yield new superweeds.