Scotts CEO Warns Malloy About Reviving GMO Seed Ban Bill

Date:  April 17, 2014
Author:  Gregory B. Hladky

A bill to ban genetically modified grass seed and sod from Connecticut’s lawns was uprooted and dumped on the legislative mulch pile by the House last week, but that wasn’t good enough for the head of Scotts Miracle-Gro.

The chairman of that company wrote Gov. Dannel Malloy Thursday warning that any revival of the ban or any moratorium on the new grass seed could lead Scotts to reconsider its investments in Connecticut.

Scotts is creating a grass seed using genetically modified organism (GMO) technology. This new form of lawn grass could survive being sprayed with Monsanto’s popular herbicide, Roundup. That would allow homeowners to use Roundup to kill every weed in their yard without hurting the grass.

Environmentalists are worried that could result in a huge boost in pesticide and herbicide use, which could create more pollution, and that the new type of grass could spread and endangering Connecticut’s organic farms. They fear Scotts’ new GMO grass seed could be available soon and wanted the ban in place now, but House lawmakers rejected that plan on a bipartisan vote.

Jim Hagedorn is chairman and chief executive officer of Scotts, and he wrote to Gov. Dannel Malloy Thursday because he is “dismayed that so many uninformed comments have been made about our technology.”

Hagedorn said the new grass seed is intended to need “less mowing, less fertilizer, fewer pesticides and less water.” He said the GMO grass “would provide unquestionable environmental benefits.” Hagedorn said the seed is scheduled to be tested on a few lawns in Ohio this year, and said it could be “one of the most important turf seed innovations ever brought to the marketplace…”

His problem is that new studies have raised serious questions about the long-term environmental impacts of other types of GMO seeds and crops, including increased resistance of weeds and insect pests to the herbicides and pesticides used in tandem with GMO technology.

There are growing concerns that GMO crops are having unintended consequences, such as contributing to the decline of the monarch butterfly and bee colony collapse disorder.

Scott’s CEO wants to have the University of Connecticut join with the other universities that Scotts has recruited to study the new grass seed. He also asked Malloy “to reject any attempt to enact a moratorium banning our products, even temporarily.”

Hagedorn also warned that any renewed effort to have Connecticut ban or place a moratorium on the new seed could lead him to question “whether continuing to invest in  Connecticut is in the best long-term interests of my company and its stockholders.”

Scotts now has one of its main manufacturing plants in this state and employs about 200 people here.

Hagedorn may well have reason to be worried about a revival of the GMO seed ban. The Senate’s top Democrat, Donald Williams Jr. of Brooklyn, says he’s thinking about ways to breathe some legislative life back into that proposal.



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