Connecticut Legislature Rejects Ban on GM Grass

Published May 2, 2014

The Connecticut House of Representatives soundly defeated a bill that would ban genetically modified grass in the state. The Connecticut Senate had approved the bill, but the House defeated it by a vote of 103-37.

Democrats Opposed the Ban
Importantly, the bill failed to gain majority support among either Republicans or Democrats. Only 37 House Democrats voted for the bill, versus 51 House Democrats voting against it.

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden) said it was the first time he voted against a bill he called to the House floor.

“The advocates wanted a vote on the bill, so I felt it was most important to have the vote and avoid the distraction that was going to inevitably occur if we kept it on our calendar for days or weeks,” Sharkey told the Connecticut press.

Environmental Advances
In an editorial in the influential Hartford Courant on the morning of the House vote, Connecticut United for Research Excellence board member Paul Pescatello explained why banning genetically modified grass harms the environment.

“The idea in question is to use to use what we’ve learned about the plant genome to do more quickly and with greater safety what farmers have done for thousands of years: breed a better plant. But rather than encouraging knowledge creation and innovation, of seeing where the science takes us, some legislators wanted to quash the research by banning a product that is only under development,” Pescatello explained.

“That product is a Kentucky bluegrass that would require fewer herbicide applications, be drought tolerant and be slow growing. If this research effort works, the new turf would decrease water consumption, protect our watershed and lower carbon emissions,” Pescatello explained. “Gentler on the environment, healthier for us and part of the solution to global warming—what’s not to like?”

‘A Terrible Precedent’
Henry I. Miller, the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, says banning a product still in developmental stages would set a bad precedent.

“It’s a terrible precedent for a state legislature to try to interfere with the development of what could be an important consumer product—and one regulated at the federal level, in any case,” he said.

Although the legislation would set a terrible precedent, Miller expressed confidence the federal courts would strike down any such ban as unconstitutional.

“Such actions by a state legislature probably run afoul of the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, so they would likely be overturned,” he said.

Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.