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a new U.S.-grown lettuce that is a cross between iceberg and Romaine lettuce
Tip of the iceberg
(Bill) Waycott—who said he’s one of only about 50 lettuce breeders in the world—began his quest to invent a healthier iceberg lettuce some 20 years ago, crossing it with a romaine variety developed over thousands of years in the Mediterranean region.
How can you find out what genetically modified (GM) crops are growing in your own backyard? You can’t. According to Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales, you can set your mind at ease, for now. “There are no GM crops here,” said Gonzales. “What happens here is traditional plant breeding … allowing nature to pollinate a crop with bees and other such methods.”
For Jan Dietrick, general manager of Rincon Vitova Insectaries, an organic pest control company in Ventura, her concerns are not that easily put to rest. Dietrick said she fears that biotech giant, and longtime target of GM food skeptics, Monsanto Company will cause damage to local crops and vegetation through escaped genes. Monsanto purchased Seminis Inc., a vegetable seed company in Oxnard, back in 2005. Though Seminis has traditionally used natural methods of cross-pollination to produce its hybrid vegetable seeds, Dietrick said she has suspicions that Seminis, now under the control of Monsanto, may begin manipulating seeds genetically and testing them in Ventura County on what she calls “secret, unmarked and unregulated” test plots.
“The biggest problem is that it is a pollution that replicates itself,” said Dietrick. “It is the only invention humanity has ever released into the environment that cannot be undone.”