[permaculture] Genetically modified canola goes wild
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Thu Oct 13 11:42:26 EDT 2011
Genetically modified canola goes wild
'Feral' plants found growing along roads from North Dakota to Manitoba
By Margaret Munro, Postmedia News October 6, 2011
Genetically modified canola has escaped from the farm and is thriving
in the wild across North Dakota, according to a study that indicates
there are plenty of novel man-made genes crossing the Canada-U.S.
GM canola was found growing everywhere from ditches to parking lots,
the scientists report, with some of the highest densities along a
trucking route into Canada.
"That's where the most intense canola production is and it's also the
road that goes to the canola processing plants across the border,"
said ecologist Cynthia Sagers of the University of Arkansas, referring
to a canola plant in Altona, Man.
Her study stopped at the border, but Canadian research also has found
"escaped" GM canola is becoming common on the Canadian prairies, and
swapping man-made genes in the wild.
"Biology doesn't know any borders," said Rene Van Acker at the
University of Guelph, who has done extensive research on the extent
and behaviour of escaped GM crops in Manitoba.
For the study published Wednesday, Sagers and her colleagues drove
across North Dakota and stopped every eight kilometres to see what was
growing. At almost half of the 634 stops they found genetically
At some locations there were thousands of GM plants growing.
"That was a shock to us," Sagers said.
At other spots, the GM canola, which was engineered to withstand
herbicides that kill weeds, was the only thing growing.
"In some places along the road where department of transportation had
sprayed for weeds, the canola was blooming brilliantly," Sagers said.
Of 288 canola plants the researchers tested, 231 were transgenic or
Perhaps most significant, they said, is the fact that two of the
plants had combinations of herbicide resistance that had not been
"That suggests to us there is breeding going on, either in the field
or in these roadside populations, to create new combinations of
traits," said Sagers. "In terms of evolutionary biology it's pretty
She says the findings raise questions about whether the escaped or
"feral" GM canola might pass on man-made genes to wild species like
field mustard, which is an agricultural pest.
"It is conceivably a very large problem," said Sagers.
Van Acker said the study, like similar research done in Canada, raises
red flags over plans to grow pharmaceutical drugs and industrial oils
in GM plants. Such crops would have to be "confined" and kept out of
the food system, said Van Acker, "and that starts to worry me."
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which regulates and approves GM
crops grown in Canada, said by email Wednesday that it is satisfied
that the GM crops escaping farms pose no risk.
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Genetically+modified+canola+goes+wild/5510612/story.html#ixzz1ag1pgekc
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