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Petition Filed to Ban GE Lawn
and Golf Course Grass

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:
August 1, 2002 Joseph Mendelson, 202.547.9359,
joemend@icta.org
Peter T. Jenkins, 202.547.9359,
peterjenkins@icta.org

LEGAL ACTION SEEKS TO BLOCK GENETICALLY
ENGINEERED LAWN GRASS

BIOTECH GRASS POSES WIDESPREAD ENVIRONMENTAL
CONTAMINATION RISKS

MONSANTO AND SCOTTS PREPARED TO MARKET GENE
ALTERED LAWN GRASS TO VAST HOME
AND COMMERCIAL RETAIL MARKETS

Washington, DC -- Today the International Center for Technology Assessment
(CTA), a non-profit public interest group, filed a formal legal petition
asking the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to block
the release of the first-ever genetically engineered (GE) plant intended for
use by homeowners and property managers. Biotechnology giant Monsanto Co.
and Scotts Co., the leading lawn and garden product marketer, are seeking
Federal approval to commercialize a GE creeping bentgrass, the turfgrass
preferred for golf course greens and used in countless lawns across the
country.

The GE grass variety is resistant to the top-selling weedkiller Roundup(tm),
a brand owned by Monsanto for which it has licensed exclusive marketing
rights to Scotts. Currently, use of the Roundup weedkiller is limited to
spot spraying of weeds in that the herbicide kills any grass it comes in
contact with. The new GE grass has been altered to be resistant to the
weedkiller so that users will be able to spray entire lawns, fields and golf
courses with the chemical without fear of hurting the grass. Large scale
planting of the GE grass would therefore massively increase the amounts of
herbicide used in home lawns, sports fields, schools and golf courses around
the country.

"Monsanto and Scotts are asking for government approval to massively
increase the chemical contamination of our neighborhoods, playing fields,
and other recreational areas," said CTA Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell.
"Their pursuit of biotech profits is putting our children and our
communities at risk, and we will use any legal means to prevent this,"
Kimbrell concluded.

Beyond the increase in chemical pollution, CTA also describes the major
"biological pollution" threat presented by the GE grass. Creeping bentgrass
itself is broadly recognized as a difficult to control weed. It is a
wind-pollinated species whose pollen blows easily for hundreds of yards and
it readily hybridizes with other grasses. The fact that the leading
weedkiller Roundup cannot kill the proposed GE variety will significantly
increase the effort, cost and environmental damage necessary to get rid of
it where it is unwanted. In many natural areas and parks, where non-native
creeping bentgrass already is a serious invader, the herbicide resistant
grass could become an almost impossible to eradicate "superweed." The
herbicide resistance genes could also "jump" from the bentgrass to other
weeds thereby making them dangerous "superweeds." This potential
environmental disaster could lead to financial liability problems for
Monsanto, Scotts and the retailers and end users of the GE product.

Peter T. Jenkins, CTA's attorney and policy analyst on the petition, stated:
"What Monsanto and Scotts are doing to creeping bentgrass will make it a
more threatening invasive species for those who don't want it in their lawn
or park. Their proposal amounts to genetic assault and battery,
recklessness and trespassing."

Citing legal precedents and an array of scientific evidence, CTA's petition
argues that USDA officials must not approve release of the GE variety and
instead must list it as a noxious weed under the Federal Plant Protection
Act. Should the CTA petition be rejected, the organization will file suit in
Federal court to halt any approval.

Prior to CTA's formal legal petition a number of groups including the
American Society of Landscape Architects (more than 14,000 members
nationally); The Nature Conservancy (the largest holder of private land
preserves in the world); and the public interest group, the Foundation on
Economic Trends wrote letters to USDA requesting a moratorium on the
approval and release of the GE grass.

(For a copy of the CTA petition, see: www.icta.org, under Actions. The USDA
website listing the application for the product is:
www.aphis.usda.gov/ppq/biotech/petday.html
<http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppq/biotech/petday.htmlp> petition no.
02-122-01p.)

OOO

Joseph Mendelson III
Legal Director
International Center for Technology Assessment &
the Center for Food Safety
660 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
Suite 302
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 547-9359
(202) 547-9429 fax

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