Organic Consumers Association

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Escaped GMO Bentgrass Creates Bitter Divide in Eastern Oregon Still

Genetically engineered bentgrass escaped its experimental field in Oregon and still causes problems for farmers, who wish the federal government would do more to regulate it.

In the failing light of an unusually warm January day, Jerry Erstrom and I race along a dirt track behind Rod Frahm’s white pickup. Here, near Ontario, Oregon, a stone’s throw from the Idaho border, Frahm grows onions, squash and corn. But today, he wants to show us something he’s growing against his will: a genetically engineered turfgrass designed for golf courses.

Frahm slams on the brakes next to a dry irrigation ditch, jumps out and yanks up a clump, winter-brown but laced with new green shoots. Beneath his gray fedora, his dark eyes glint with anger as he holds out the scraggly specimen. “I have it in a lot of my ditches,” he says.

Just to be sure, Erstrom produces a plastic vial the size and shape of a .22 caliber cartridge.

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