We’ve already covered how genetically modified plants were found to be growing in the wild along roadsides. The problem with these plants is two-fold: these so-called superweeds are resistant to some sort of herbicide, so are more difficult to control, and there are fears that these plants have crossbreed with native plants, making even more superweeds.
Well now, not only are different genetically modified plants creeping their way out into the wild and growing along side native plants; they’re now crossbreeding with each other and making super-superweeds that are resistant to multiple herbicides, as was discovered in recent research.
Along roadsides in North Dakota, 631 sites were sampled. Canola was found 288 out of 631 of the sites, and of these 288, 80 percent was of the canola was found to be genetically engineered to resist one of two weedkillers plants are genetically modified to be tolerant to. Of the genetically modified plants found, two plants were found to have resistance to both herbicides, which means that the two genetically modified strains crossbred.
Canola plants have been genetically modified by two corporations, Monsanto and Bayer, to be resistant to two hericides: glyphosate and glufosinate, respectively. Since neither corporation would dare make their genetically modified plants resistant to the other’s herbicide, these doubly-resistant plants can only have acquired these genes through crossbreeding. According to a researcher:
“It could have happened if one farmer planted glyphosate-resistant canola, and his neighbour planted glufosinate-resistant canola, for example.”
Genetically modified canola plants from one farmer’s field that escaped as weeds could have been fertilised by pollen from the other such weed, leading to a doubly resistant weed.
Since the number of doubly-resistant plants found was very small, there is no immediate worry; however, the find highlights the need for careful management of genetically modified plants.
Source: New Scientist
Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons by justaprairieboy