Based on what I read in today’s media, the vast majority of parents in America would explode if they learned that a classmate in their child’s school was not vaccinated against the Big Nasties—especially if the deficiency was due to other parents’ antagonistic stance regarding the safety of vaccines.
It’s the herd-protection thing, and I’ll not bore you by beating that dead horse.
But I wonder if those same parents are aware of a very similar drama underway in the world of agriculture. The only difference is that this one lacks…drama. No one is outraged; a classic instance of “under the radar.”
Scientists at Ohio’s Scotts Miracle-Gro recently cooked up genetically engineered (GE, aka GMO), slow-grow, Roundup-ready Kentucky bluegrass, and the company is quietly releasing it into the world, completely unregulated by USDA (or any other authority) due to a weird technicality (more on that later). Amazingly, Scotts Miracle-Gro has already launched a field experiment allowing its employees, on a voluntary basis, to plant their own lawns with the initial batches in order to, well, see what happens.
So what does this have to do with vaccines?
Nothing directly, but a lot when you look at it in a comparative light. At first appearance, to the average, lawn-mowing homeowner, GMO slow-growing Kentucky bluegrass is, like an effective vaccine, all good: less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; less time mowing; more time to spend on more important things. Heck, it’s even a deeper green than the old Kentucky bluegrass. The Roundup-ready aspect, while just as difficult to square with my organic mind, might nudge some toward a favorable view as well: less manual weeding; more time with the family; whatever.
The tricky part is that this Frankengrass spreads through the air via pollen and can, over time, create a whole landscape of slow-growing grass. In other words, once this rapacious genie is out of the bottle, good luck tamping him back in. Before long, everyone in the neighborhood will have a slow-growing front yard. A while later, and it’s every lawn in the sub-division. Next year, it takes off down the blue highways, and that’s where the real trouble begins because there is a very important segment of the American population that is existentially threatened by slow-growing grass: organic, pasture-based dairy and beef farmers. They want their non-GMO grass to grow fast because they have cows that need to eat.
These hard-working farmers are at the mercy of this insidious creation that travels on the wind—like unsuspecting children sharing a sneezeosphere with their unvaccinated schoolmates. And the government agency responsible for overseeing and enforcing regulations has run off down the street because it hears its mother calling, as it were.
Scotts Miracle-Gro gets away with this because the company injected the genes into the plant instead of stowing them away in the luggage compartment of a modified bacteria pathogen. Same GMO, different delivery method. Obviously, this is the perfect reason to forego any and all oversight. Right, Mom?
The story gets even better. The fact that Scotts Miracle-Gro has already enlisted its employees to release this GMO seed represents a dark-alley departure from the strict controls that have regulated the release of every GMO plant up to this point.
Normally, an unapproved GMO must be tightly contained in the lab until it is deemed “safe” (or whatever they call it) by USDA for release, and only then is it allowed out into the open air on test fields. In the case of GMO slow-growing Kentucky bluegrass, however, this inconvenience never materialized since USDA sees no reason to regulate this one in the first place thanks to the different-delivery-method loophole. Easy-peasy beesy-kneesies.
Understand, this is all happening in the historical shadow of a 2003 GMO grass disaster that Scotts Miracle-Gro orchestrated in the state of Oregon—the nation’s grass-growing superstate. That earlier scientific fun involved GMO creeping bentgrass, which Scotts Miracle Grow had engineered to give a hand-up to the struggling U.S. golf course industry. Turns out, the yet unapproved creeping bentgrass lived up to its name and crept out of its Oregon test fields onto the grasslands of many unsuspecting landowners over several square miles of neighboring lands.
It appears that this debacle—along with significant fines and ongoing costs of eradication efforts—has done little to defer Scotts’ determination to profit from its tinkering with the DNA of grass.
Like it or not, it’s coming home now like a coughing child for a sleepover, and it’s nearly your turn to participate directly in the magic of GMOs. If you have a pesky lawn, that is. Or an organic cow or two to pasture.
For further reading: