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Are GM Crops Spurring the Creation of SuperWeeds?

Evidence has emerged that transgenic oilseed rape, used to make canola oil, is interbreeding with related wild species, raising fears that herbicide-tolerance could spread among weeds.

In a three-year study, researchers analyzed weed species growing in 28 fields sown half with transgenic oilseed rape, engineered to be resistant to an herbicide (Liberty), and half with a non-transgenic crop. They identified two plants that seem to possess characteristics of both oilseed rape and charlock, a related weed species, which suggests the two may have hybridized.

One plant that resembled charlock was not killed by the Liberty herbicide. Environmental groups are saying this is evidence that transgenes can escape into the plant community at large, and, as one campaign spokesperson put it, "We're seeing the real possibility of superweeds being created."

The findings are not unexpected: oilseed rape has previously been found to hybridize with wild turnip, and back in 2002 it was known that normal crops could be contaminated by GM varieties, making weeds impossible to control.

The potential environmental impacts of GM crops are huge, and this impact gets even bigger when you consider their potential impact on your health.

Nature July 25, 2005

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