Monday, August 16, 2010

GM plants 'established in the wild
GM plants 'established in the wild'
Researchers in the US have found new evidence that genetically modified crop plants can survive and thrive in the wild, possibly for decades.

A University of Arkansas team surveyed countryside in North Dakota for canola. Transgenes were present in 80% of the wild canola plants they found. They suggest GM traits may help the plants survive weedkillers in the wild.

"We found herbicide resistant canola in roadsides, waste places, ball parks, grocery stores, gas stations and cemeteries," scientists related in their Ecological Society presentation.

The majority of canola grown in North Dakota has been genetically modified to make it resistant to proprietary herbicides, with Monsanto's RoundUp Ready and Bayer's LibertyLink the favoured varieties. These accounted for most of the plants found in the wild.

Two of the plants analysed contained both transgenes, indicating that they had cross-pollinated.

** This is thought to be the first time that communities of GM plants have been identified growing in the wild in the US.

What surprised the Arkansas team was how ubiquitous the GM varieties were in the wild. "We found the highest densities of plants near agricultural fields and along major freeways," Professor Sagers told BBC News. "But we were also finding plants in the middle of nowhere - and there's a lot of nowhere in North Dakota."

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