Scotts tests genetically modified grass seed

The company will test the seed in the private lawns of some employees.

February 7, 2014

After nearly two decades of research and some controversy, Scotts Miracle-Gro in Marysville is preparing to test a genetically modified grass seed in the family lawns of a small number of employees this growing season.

The employees will test Kentucky bluegrass that has been modified to protect it from being killed by Roundup, the weedkiller produced by agricultural giant Monsanto.

The employee testing “is a major step forward,” Scotts CEO Jim Hagedorn told shareholders at their annual meeting yesterday. “I think we will see limited commercial activity the following year (2015), and I think, if all goes well, much more (activity) in the consumer market in 2016.”

Scotts essentially shut down its biotechnology operation after its genetically modified bentgrass — a grass variety whose lightweight pollen is easily spread by the wind — escaped from an Oregon test field in 2003. The failure illustrated how hard it is to contain experimental plants until regulators deem them safe.

Scotts’ modified Kentucky bluegrass might be easier to contain because its pollen is heavier, said John Finer, an Ohio State University professor whose Wooster lab works to optimize gene transfer and expression in plants.

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