GMO task force meets for first time

Matuesz Perkowski/Capital Press
From left to right: Ivan Maluski , director of the Friends of Family Farmers; Greg Loberg, manager of the West Coast Beet Seed Co. and board member of the Oregon Seed Trade Association; Paulette Pyle , director of grassroots at Oregonians for Food and Shelter. The governor recently convened a task force to discuss issues related to genetic engineering.

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A new task force aimed at fleshing out the controversies over genetically
modified organisms in Oregon will include members with strongly contrasting
points of view. It meets for the first time today.


SALEM — A new task force aimed at fleshing out the controversies over genetically modified organisms in Oregon includes members with strongly contrasting points of view.

The goal will not be to develop policy recommendations for the state’s legislature, said Richard Whitman, natural resources policy director for Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

“It’s not a normal task force we set up to develop a consensus,” he said during its first meeting in Portland on April 10.

Because genetic engineering is fraught with deep philosophical divisions, the purpose of the task force is to frame the issue and inform lawmakers, Whitman said.

The forum will allow members to air different perspectives “without the final struggle of trying to convince everybody in the room to go in the same direction,” he said.

The 13 members of the task force, appointed by Kitzhaber, include advocates for and against genetically engineering, as well as non-profit groups, business interests, university professors and a state government official.

The governor promised to convene the task force last year, after the state legislature approved a bill to preempt local governments from regulating GMOs.

The bill was part of a broader legislative packaged of pension and school reforms backed by Kitzhaber.

The task force is expected to draft a report to advise lawmakers about potential conflicts between GMOs and conventional and organic crops.

The first meeting was co-convened by Dan Arp, dean of OSU’s School of Agriculture, and Jennifer Allen, director of Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions.

It’s rare to have people on different sides of the issue in the same room together, said Steve Strauss, an Oregon State University professor who studies biotechnology in forestry.

However, it remains to be seen how much they can illuminate the GMO controversy, given the large amount of attention the topic has received, he said.

“I’m concerned we may not develop new things that are tangible,” Strauss said. “I’m worried whether we’ll be able to do something consequential. I hope so.”

Frank Morton, who farms near Philomath, Ore., said he wants the task force to better define some of the language that gets thrown around in the debate.

A leading example is how cross-pollination is characterized. Organic growers view it as “contamination” while GMO proponents call it “adventitious presence,” Morton said.

“My question for people in this room is, when does one turn into the other?” he said.

The Northwest Food Processors Association wants to ensure the task force doesn’t lose sight of broader issues beyond Oregon’s borders, said Connie Kirby, vice president of scientific and technical affairs for the group.

Labeling of foods with GMO ingredients would force companies to use different packages than in other states, for example, she said.

“We don’t want to constrain interstate commerce or intrastate commerce as well ,” Kirby said.

Members of the task force are:

Barry Bushue — A farmer from Boring, Ore., and president of the Oregon Farm Bureau.

Katy Coba — Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Connie Kirby — Vice president of scientific and technical affairs at the Northwest Food Processors Association.

Greg Loberg — Manager of the West Coast Beet Seed Co. and board member of the Oregon Seed Trade Association.

Ivan Maluski — Director of the Friends of Family Farmers, a group that opposed GMOs.

Frank Morton — An organic seed grower from Philomath, Ore.

Jim Myers — Vegetable breeding and genetics professor at Oregon State University.

Marty Myers — General manager of Threemile Canyon Farms.

Paulette Pyle — Director of grassroots at Oregonians for Food and Shelter, a group that supports genetic engineering.

Chris Schreiner — Executive director of Oregon Tilth, an organic certifying agency.

Lisa Sedlar — CEO of Green Zebra Grocery.

Steve Strauss — A professor of forestry at Oregon State University who ran its biotechnology outreach program.

Sam Tannahill — Director of viticulture and winemaking at A to Z Wineworks.

Click here for the original article at Capital Press.

Oregon task force to take on GMOs

LifeSource in South Salem supports the NON GMO Project. Photographed Wednesday, March 5, 2014.
LifeSource in South Salem supports the NON GMO Project. Photographed Wednesday, March 5, 2014. / DANIELLE PETERSON / Statesman Journal
Written by Tracy Loew
Six months after Oregon banned cities and counties from regulating genetically modified crops and seeds, a governor-appointed task force will take a statewide look at the issue.

The Genetically Engineered Agriculture Task Force isn’t expected to reach consensus or recommend legislation.

Instead, it will “identify and frame the major issues between growers of genetically engineered agricultural products and other producers, including organic growers,” Gov. John Kitzhaber’s office said Wednesday.

It also will direct a state Department of Agriculture report, due by the end of June, that will set out a plan for mapping where and when genetically engineered crops are grown and for providing buffers and exclusion zones.

“Oregon farmers and consumers are grappling with major issues associated with genetically modified crops and food,” Kitzhaber said. “This task force will bring people with diverse perspectives together to help improve understanding of the range of issues and move forward on solutions that fit Oregonians’ values and needs.”

Kitzhaber promised the task force in a letter to legislative leaders following last fall’s special session, when a bill barring local governments from regulating genetically engineered crops and seeds was added to his “grand bargain” tax and school funding package as a condition of its passage.

The move infuriated many organic farmers and environmentalists.

Kitzhaber announced the names of the task force members Wednesday afternoon. The group will hold its first meeting today.

The task force“>co-conveners, named in February, are Dan Arp, dean of Oregon State University’s School of Agriculture, and Jennifer Allen, director of Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions.

Task force committee members, announced Wednesday, are:

• Barry Bushue, longtime Oregon Farm Bureau president.

• Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

• Connie Kirby, vice president at the Northwest Food Processors Association.

• Greg Loberg, secretary/treasurer of the Oregon Seed Association and manager at West Coast Beet Seed Company.

• Ivan Maluski, director of Friends of Family Farmers.

• Frank Morton, of the organic Shoulder to Shoulder Farm.

• Jim Myers, vegetable breeding and genetics professor at Oregon State University.

• Marty Myers, of Threemile Canyon Farms, a sustainable farm in Boardman.

• Paulette Pyle, of Oregonians for Food and Shelter, a nonprofit supporting the use of pesticides, fertilizers and biotechnology.

• Chris Schreiner, executive director of the nonprofit Oregon Tilth, which promotes sustainable agriculture.

• Lisa Sedlar, founder and chief executive officer of Green Zebra Grocery and former New Seasons CEO.

• Steve Strauss, Oregon State University professor and creator and director of the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative.

• Sam Tannahill, director of viticulture and winemaking at A to Z Wineworks.

In February, the Legislature allocated $125,000 toward running the task force. It will go to Portland State University’s Oregon Consensus Program.

The task force is expected to continue meeting through this fall., (503) 399-6779 or follow at

Click here for the original article at Statesman Journal.

Augusta Masters likely play on Oregon ryegrass

Eric Mortenson/Capital Press; Published April 9, 2014
Student Travis Heiple rolls a putting green at Oregon State University’s turf grass research site.

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If you watch The Masters golf tournament this week, you might be seeing a little green slice of Oregon.

The legendary course at Augusta National Golf Club is so lush, it’s no wonder they give the Masters Tournament winner a green jacket.

The Georgia club is an exclusive place, with membership limited to the high and mighty — not to mention wealthy — of American business, political and celebrity circles. But as the Masters unfolds on television this week, Oregon grass seed growers and turf management students can feel a connection to the proceedings.

The incredible green of Augusta’s fairways comes from being overseeded each fall with perennial ryegrass grown in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

At least, that’s what everyone says. Augusta National is private with a capital P, even secretive, and its media handlers didn’t respond to emails asking about its groundskeeping practices. The Augusta Chronicle newspaper reported as recently as 2012 that Augusta overseeds with perennial ryegrass, however, and it’s a matter of faith in Oregon that the seed comes from the state that leads the world in production.

Augusta’s Bermuda grass is a warm-season grass, and goes dormant during the winter, explains Alec Kowalewski, director of the turfgrass program at Oregon State University. Perennial ryegrass, on the other hand, is a cool-season variety that does just fine in winter.

“They seed it over the top of the dormant grass,” Kowalewski said. “It’s one of the big overseeding grasses they use in the south.”

The result is a lush green appearance when other courses, athletic fields and lawns might look patchy or brown. Perennial ryegrass is favored on golf courses in particular because it’s deep green, germinates relatively quickly, grows upright to give golfers the fluffy lies they prefer to hit balls from and tolerates low mowing heights. Fairways typically are cut to a half-inch height, and greens to a tenth of an inch.

The conditions at Augusta, site of professional golf’s first major of the season, draw studied looks from Kowalewski and the students in the turfgrass program. It’s a niche area of study within OSU’s horticulture department, with only about 20 students, but it counts more than 300 graduates working as golf course superintendents or at athletic complexes, parks and lawn care companies, according to a program website. About 90 percent of graduates find work at golf courses, Kowalewski said.

The program’s research site is off campus at OSU’s Lewis-Brown Farm. There, students tend and do research projects on three over-sized putting greens. Groups of students are put in charge of sections of the greens for a term, and must roll it, mow it and manage the “speed” of the putting surfaces — how quickly a golf ball will roll.

“The idea is to get them into the mindset of a superintendent,” Kowalewski said.

On-going experiments include a “wear” test, in which Kowalewski and students put on spiked golf shoes and tromp around on the greens to see how they hold up. A more sophisticated project involves testing alternative treatments for a common winter pathogen called microdocium patch, which leaves dead spots on greens.

Kowalewski and Clint Mattox, a graduate research assistant, are testing combinations of a crop oil, sulfur and potassium phosphite. The work is noteworthy because regulatory agencies take a dim view of heavy fungicide applications — the current method of controlling microdocium patch. Some course superintendents believe fungicides may eventually be banned for ornamental use such as golf courses, and want to find an alternative treatment.

Such intensive management is par for the course. “When you take it down to mowing heights, it becomes more susceptible to disease,” Kowalewski said.

Even at Augusta National, considered a showcase — maybe an unrealistically expensive and time-consuming one — of golf course management.

“It’s an anomaly,” said Dave Phipps, Northwest regional representative for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. Course superintendents everywhere else take their lumps when Augusta National goes on display during the Masters.

“That’s what people want,” Phipps said. “Every year at this time of year we get pounded on: ‘Why can’t we have fairways like at Augusta?’”

Click here for the original article at Capital Press.

Pennington Seed Becomes the Official Lawn Care Company of The New York Yankees

The iconic team will utilize the portfolio of Pennington grass seed products to maintain the field at Yankee Stadium starting in the 2014 season.

MADISON, Ga., April 7, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — To mark the beginning of the 2014 baseball season and to kickoff the spring growing season, Pennington Seed, Inc., today announced it has finalized an agreement to become the official lawn care company of the New York Yankees. As part of the multi-year partnership, Pennington will develop and provide a portfolio of grass seed products to support the unique aesthetic, functional and maintenance needs of the iconic field at Yankee Stadium.

The New York Yankees sought Pennington to address the rigorous demands and continuous wear placed on their field. The Yankees grounds crew selected Pennington grass seed for its best-in-class aesthetic appeal and durability, as well as for its ease of maintenance. In addition, the partnership includes field days for professionals and local in-store promotions.

“We’re proud that the dedicated turf professionals of Yankee Stadium and the New York Yankees turned to Pennington to deliver the highest quality seed for their field,” said Jeff Crow, vice president of marketing at Central Garden & Pet Company, the parent company of Pennington Seed. “Whether being used to maintain the field at Yankee Stadium or to repair or establish your own yard, Pennington products are designed to establish thicker, fuller grass that can withstand the rigors of regular use, while using up to 30 percent less water versus ordinary seed.”

From 81 home games to concerts and other events, the multi-function field at Yankee Stadium is continuously used throughout the year.

“We are very excited to begin a relationship with Pennington. We hope that utilizing Pennington grass seed products at Yankee Stadium, along with the in-Stadium signage, expands its brand awareness,” said Michael J. Tusiani, New York Yankees Senior Vice President of Corporate Sales and Sponsorships.

Pennington offers a variety of grass seed mixes and blends to suit the needs of every homeowner. Pennington grass seed is available at home improvement stores and select independent retailers nationwide, including throughout the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. For additional information about Pennington Seed, please visit or go to .

About Pennington Seed

Founded in 1945 by Brooks Pennington, Sr., Pennington Seed, Inc. had humble beginnings as a small feed and seed store located in Madison, Ga., where the company is still headquartered today. Since the company’s founding, Pennington Seed has grown into one of the largest manufacturers, producers and distributors of lawn & garden and turf care products in the world, with state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, observation nurseries and quality control labs located across the country.

Pennington Seed is owned by the Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Central Garden & Pet Company CENT +1.07% CENTA +0.83% , a leading innovator, marketer and producer of quality branded products for the lawn & garden and pet supply markets. To learn more about Pennington Seed, visit . For additional information on Central Garden & Pet Company, including access to the Company’s SEC filings, .

SOURCE Pennington Seed, Inc.

Copyright (C) 2014 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

Click here for the original article at Market Watch.