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No Roundup Ready grass next summer

(Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- AP: The makers of a grass genetically designed to help keep golf courses free of weeds have withdrawn their application to begin selling it after getting several questions from the Agriculture Department.

The Scotts Co. and Monsanto Co., which developed the biotech grass through a joint venture, said they haven't given up on marketing the grass and will submit a new application next year.

``I think it was a just a matter of providing some additional information,'' Jim King, a spokesman for Scotts, said Tuesday. ``It was just a matter of us compiling that information and submitting it into a new application.''

In September the Agriculture Department sought more information from Scotts and Monsanto, which decided earlier this month to withdraw the application.

Ed Curlett, a spokesman for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the letter was part of the routine review process and was not prompted by biotechnology critics who complained the grass could cross-pollinate with other varieties and create a herbicide-resistant strain that could wreak havoc on neighboring lawns and schoolyards.

The International Center for Technology Assessment filed a complaint this summer with the Agriculture Department, arguing the agency should deny the companies' application because the biotech grass could make it difficult for other plant species to survive.

Peter T. Jenkins, a policy analyst for ICTA, called the genetically engineered product a ``supergrass'' that would difficult to manage because of its resistance to a widely used herbicide, Roundup.

``People who want to control it will have to use more chemicals, more harmful chemicals, and (the grass) can invade into plantations of other turf grasses,'' he said.

The biotech grass is designed to tolerate Roundup. Tolerance to the weed-killer would allow groundskeepers to spray the herbicide and kill unwanted weeds without destroying the special turf grass.