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Senate To Push Ahead With GMO Grass Ban Despite Uncertain Future In House

by Hugh McQuaid | Apr 9, 2014 5:30am
(20) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Agriculture, Business, Election 2014, Environment, Local Politics, State Capitol

Hugh McQuaid file photo

Sen. President Donald Williams with Sen. Ed Meyer last month at a press conference on the GMO legislation. At left is Tara Cook-Littman, an anti-GMO advocate running as a Democrat for the 134th House District seat.

The Senate is poised to approve a ban on genetically modified grass seed in Connecticut, but House Speaker Brendan Sharkey and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy are not sold on the idea.

Environment Committee Co-Chairman Sen. Ed Meyer said the bill is likely to be raised on the Senate floor during session Wednesday. The legislation bans genetically modified grass seeds and genetically modified landscape plants and expands restrictions on using pesticides on school grounds and other public land.

Lawmakers like Meyer and Senate President Donald Williams are seeking to prohibit plants that have been genetically modified to be resistant to a chemical called glyphosate, which is found in the popular herbicide Roundup.

The concern is that once plants can tolerate more exposure to the chemical, people will use the herbicide in greater quantities, which will hurt the environment.

Senate Democrats met behind closed doors to discuss the legislation last week.

“It needed explanation in the sense that our caucus wanted to know why it was harmful to the environment, mainly that it will induce and motivate more pesticides. After that it received a lot of support,” Meyer said.

Although it’s expected to be a lengthy debate with opposition from Senate Republicans, Meyer said the bill has enough support to pass the Senate.

It’s less clear how much support it has outside the upper chamber.

Asked about the proposal, Sharkey was apprehensive in a short statement Tuesday afternoon.

“In a short session that is supposed to focus on jobs and the economy, I’m concerned about enacting legislation this year that looks to preemptively ban a product that doesn’t yet exist without allowing the public, and experts, to weigh in,” he said.

Malloy also expressed concerns when asked about genetically modified grass at an unrelated event Tuesday.

“I’m definitely not going to eat it,” he joked.

The governor said he has followed the discussion over the legislation, but the bill has “not been at the top of my agenda.”

Malloy said he has concerns about where the ban would place Connecticut in relation to the policies of nearby states. It’s a concern his administration expressed during the debate over last year’s bill requiring the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms.

Uneasiness about putting Connecticut businesses at a competitive disadvantage led to a compromise on last year’s bill. Malloy signed the legislation into law last year, but it only becomes effective if other states approve similar proposals and a population threshold is met.

Malloy pointed to that compromise when asked Tuesday about the possibility of a ban on genetically modified grass seed.

“One of the things that I always say is we have to do this in balance. We have to be aware of where we are on the issue. I don’t mind leading on some issues. It’s even okay to be ahead of people — minimum wage is one of those. But on issues of commerce and the impact on commerce, I’d like to know where we’re moving as a region or where we’re moving with other states and that was why we were able to get a good compromise on GMOs last year,” he said.

The bill has put pressure on states like Maine, Vermont, Washington, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts to “step up” and consider Connecticut’s policy, the governor said. He added that he would work on the issue with “anybody who’s got good intent.”

However, proponents of banning the genetically modified grass believe the issue is time sensitive. The grass is not yet on the market. But once it is sold and grown, some believe it will be impossible to get rid of it, even if the state implements a ban sometime in the future.

Williams, who is not seeking re-election this year, expressed those concerns at a press conference on the subject in March.

“We have an extraordinary opportunity to, in Connecticut, not fight a rearguard action after the fact, five or 10 years from now, when the consequences will be readily apparent . . . We have the ability right now to stop that in it’s tracks and that’s what we intend to do this session,” he said. “Because next session may be too late.”

On Tuesday, Meyer agreed, saying he saw the GMO labeling bill and the grass bills differently. The labeling bill pertains to consumer rights while the grass seed ban is directly aimed at reducing the use of toxic chemicals, he said.

“I don’t favor a regional approach with respect to chemicals we’ve identified as toxic. I think Connecticut has to go it’s own way to protect its residents,” he said. 

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(20) Comments

posted by: Matt from CT | April 9, 2014  7:44am

Why do Democrats fear technology?

Be it guns or GMO?

This is a rejection of science every bit as based in ignorance as those who favor teaching creation in science classes or vaccine deniers.

posted by: dano860 | April 9, 2014  8:17am

“....to preemptively ban a product that doesn’t yet exist without allowing the public, and experts, to weigh in,” he said.”  (Sharkey)
This comes right up against the continuing erosion of our rights, the constitution and Ct. Bill of Rights. Another middle of the night non-emergency piece of legislation.
Please look up the reports on glyphosate, it isn’t the biggest problem in the landscape / agriculture chemical world. (Nitrogen) Also the list of GMO containing foods is extremely extensive, even Whole Foods carries products containing them. One of the first foods treated is the lowly soy bean, the one that is in tons of our foods and feed for livestock. It also produces the ever so healthy tofu that the vegans love. Load that sushi with the soy sauce, it’s good for you.

posted by: Chien DeBerger | April 9, 2014  9:24am

“Senate To Push Ahead With GMO Grass Ban Despite Uncertain Future In House”

Of course they will.

posted by: Mike D. | April 9, 2014  9:24am

“The concern is that once plants can tolerate more exposure to the chemical, people will use the herbicide in greater quantities, which will hurt the environment.”

EXACTLY, we already have evidence of this in GE crop production. The weeds would evolve either way but using one chemical all the time increases the rate at which the weeds evolve.

posted by: BridgeJet23 | April 9, 2014  11:03am

Matt from CT: I’m not a democrat, but I am informed.  Please watch this video from a doctor/researcher:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_18QTKR0h5E&feature=youtu.be

posted by: art vandelay | April 9, 2014  11:31am

art vandelay

Geez!  If the legislature ever got wind of the chemicals used to raise cow corn in this state, we’d have no dairy or beef cattle.  This is all getting out of hand.  Why do we keep voting for these people?

posted by: sparkplug | April 9, 2014  1:08pm

Hell must be freezing over because I’m actually agreeing with the Dems on this one. This GMO grass is bad news. It’s been linked to the death of hundreds of cattle in the Midwest, and those that haven’t yet died from Roundup/cyanide poisoning are being served up for dinner in people’s homes. Thanks but no thanks.

posted by: Viriato77 | April 9, 2014  1:42pm

@Mike D. so you would have people you a plethora of potentially more harmful herbicides which probably already get applied improperly. Wouldn’t this encourage use of one kind of herbicide that is relatively benign as far as herbicides go? Couldn’t you then more accurately make judgments on environmental impacts if you reduced the kinds of herbicides? Couldn’t you then educate/regulate regarding commercial and residential application? We already have an anti-GMO quack running for an office, I shudder to think what pseudoscience-based policy she’ll try to ram through.

posted by: Viriato77 | April 9, 2014  2:21pm

@sparkplug, care to cite to a credible source on that. It sounds suspect to me

posted by: sparkplug | April 9, 2014  3:26pm

Viriato77,

“Credible” is in the eye of the beholder of course, but here’s the article that mentioned the cow deaths:

http://naturalsociety.com/genetically-modified-grass-kills-cattle-by-producing-cyanide/

posted by: Viriato77 | April 9, 2014  6:28pm

1. The article you linked to have nothing to do with groupware or pesticides

2. The article you linked is actually a botched reporting of the facts. The grass discussed in your article, Tifton 85, is a conventional hybrid, not GMO. Cyanogenesis is a pretty common defense mechanism in stressed plants apparatntly. This didn’t stop anti-GM activists though, pesky facts.

posted by: dano860 | April 9, 2014  10:20pm

People!
It doesn’t matter what we say or believe here. We are not the experts, oh and by the way neither are the politicians that will make the legislation.
What matters is that the experts and business people that will be affected by the lack of due process get their say in this.
Even if they go through with this and pass a law banning the stuff it won’t be illegal in our neighboring states. The politicians can’t really believe that their actions will stop people from planting it, if and when it’s ever developed, do they?

posted by: wil22 | April 10, 2014  4:23am

What if, Maybe? Crystal Ball anyone.Don’t let it out of committee.

posted by: Viriato77 | April 10, 2014  9:44am

*groupware is an auto-correct typo and should read “glyphosate”....and don’t let this out of committee, it’s based on fear and misinformation.

posted by: Matt from CT | April 10, 2014  10:02am

>Matt from CT: I’m not a
>democrat, but I am >informed.  Please watch
>this video from
>a doctor/researcher

Watched 5 seconds and realized it wasn’t relevant to this conversation.

Even if you believe there are health effects (actual or potential in the form of “unknown unknowns”), we’re talking about grass.

And people don’t eat grass.

>and those that haven’t yet
>died from Roundup/cyanide
>poisoning

There is no link between RoundUp Ready or other GE genes and cyanide poisoning.

Cyanide poisoning of grass eating animals is well known and dates back to time immemorial—the traditional farming term for it is “Prussic Acid poisoning.”  It is rare, but can form in the right situations.

Do I endorse GE foods and landscape products?  No, I don’t.

There are real problems we can document.  For instance the transference of the Bt gene increases greatly the risk of developing Bt resistant forms of insects. 

Organic farmers can withstand GE crops like RoundUp Ready corn/soybeans/lawn grass/whatever that create super weeds.  There is no weed so super that mechanical cultivation or thick mulch won’t kill or prevent it.

But you start encouraging resistant insects that resist one of the most effective and extremely safe for most other animals (including beneficial insects like bees) like Bt which targets specifically chewing caterpillars…you will rob organic farmers and gardeners of a critical tool that they can never get back.

Is caution needed with GE?  Absolutely.

Is fear warranted?  No.  Don Williams is, once again, succumbing to knee-jerk nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror of that which he doesn’t understand.

posted by: Viriato77 | April 10, 2014  4:30pm

Matt from CT: it’s good to read a rational post! Your points are well taken about resistance, but that is an issue that is not limited to GMO. Organic farmers who judiciously apply BT should still be fine as their fields would lack the selective pressure to breed a significant population of resistant bugs. However, strategies can be deployed for GM crops too, non-GM inter-planting reduces selective pressures and stacked traits (more than one GM trait) rely on the low likelihood of being resistant to multiple targets.

posted by: Viriato77 | April 10, 2014  4:34pm

One more thing, regarding Don Williams’s knee jerking. The young lady in the background, Tara Cook-Littman, is more than likely a constant buzz in his ear. She’s a known GMO activist and is now running for office. Strap in for some more knee-jerk nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror in our local government.

posted by: VPS | April 10, 2014  10:10pm

Wonder what would happen if this roundup ready grass starts growing in a farmer’s field? How do you get rid of it, with roundup? Lazy Americans think they could spray their way out of everything!

posted by: VPS | April 12, 2014  12:14pm

Dano860 “This comes right up against the continuing erosion of our rights, the constitution and Ct. Bill of Rights. Another middle of the night non-emergency piece of legislation”. Ok Dano860, maybe you are violating my rights by having your GMO grass seed blowing into my yard! Where in the constitution does it say you have the right to grow roundup ready grass?

posted by: dano860 | April 12, 2014  8:02pm

@VPS, Where does it say I can’t grow it.
Please think about what they are doing, this time it’s grass seed what will it be next. The erosion of your rights are happening right before your eyes and it will not stop.
The debate has to be had and it hasn’t. That is the democratic process, right?
Take a moment and google the list of foods that contain GMO / GE product.
Review the technical papers on GMO plants. They don’t reproduce as GMO plants very readily if ever.
The beauty of this product would be the reduction of weed killers being applied today.
Are you using one of those 4 step lawn programs? If so you are applying product that attacks a wide range of things that you may not have. You may be adding nitrogen that isn’t absorbed by your soil, thereby you are contributing to the weed proliferation in streams and ponds by virtue of runoff into the rivers, storm drains etc.
Do people really think that everyone is going to rip out their lawns to plant this stuff, when it’s invented?
Let the experts decide this one, through the correct process.