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Date: Fri, 7 Aug 1998 10:46:51 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson <email@example.com>
Subject: GE News
If you have been having problems accessing some of the files on our website
http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html , it should be fixed now.
Thanks for Wayne Skerritt for forwarding the following article, which
summarizes the article that follows it:
InfoBeat News Aug 7, 1998.
Genetically engineered crops breed hardy weeds
Genetically engineered crops spread their new genes to nearby weeds, and
the resulting hybrid weeds are just as strong as wild weeds, researchers
said Thursday. They said their studies dashed hopes that the nearby weeds
would somehow inherit a weakness with the new gene, and perhaps die out.
Plant biologist Allison Snow studied rape plants grown in Denmark. Snow's
team crossed the rapeseed plant, with a weedy cousin, Brassica Rapa.
Ecologists theorized when weeds crossbred with genetically engineered
plants, they would be less healthy than normal weeds. However, Snow found
just the opposite.
Thanks to: MichaelP <firstname.lastname@example.org> for forwarding this
Genetic crops can aid superweeds, claim scientists By Tim Radford, Science
Editor Guardian (London) Friday August 7, 1998 Scientists last night
confirmed the green campaigner's worst nightmare: genetically-engineered
crops can lead to superweeds which shrug off weedkiller.
In a bid to tackle the problem of dealing with weeds using weedkiller
which can also destroy crops, genetic engineering has been used to develop
crops which can withstand one specific herbicide. In theory, with one
spraying, farmers should have weed-free harvests.
But Dr Allison Snow of Ohio state university yesterday told the Ecological
Society of America meeting in Baltimore that she and Danish scientists had
discovered new evidence that the genes can also spread from crops to weeds
- making them just as strong as their ordinary relatives.
The scientists had crossed a herbicide-resistant oilseed rape with a wild
relative in laboratory conditions. The theory was that although the
resulting weed would inherit the artificial gene, the weed would also
produce fewer flowers, or seeds as a result.
But the only difference between the genetically-altered weed and ordinary
weeds lay in the looks, and even that did not last. "By the third
generation, the weeds that carried the gene for herbicide resistance
looked exactly like normal weeds. The only way to tell them apart was to
expose them to herbicide or test their DNA," she said.
The report is a gift for campaigners who want to halt the spread of
genetically-altered crops in Europe. A number of field trials in Britain
have been disrupted. A genetically-engineered maize produced by Novartis -
altered to provide its own pesticide - has been shown to kill "useful"
insects as well as crop pests.
The Ohio discovery is not the first to show that crop genes altered by
humans can escape into the wild. Cultivated crop plants cannot compete
with weeds: they need human help to eliminate the competition, or they
perish. The thinking behind genetically-engineered resistance to one
particular herbicide has been that the grower could eliminate all the weed
competition in a field by spraying.
The calculation was that any accidental hybrids would inherit the
vulnerabilities of the crop parent along with the artificial benefit. It
proved wrong. The outcome was the worst of all worlds. The laboratory
hybrids had all the aggressiveness of the weed parents with
weedkiller-resistance built in.
Many crops - potatoes, for instance - do not have close relatives
co-existing as weeds. Oilseed rape is a member of the brassica family, and
wild weed brassicas often grow nearby, which would make it easy for genes
to transfer with the pollen. Experiments last year showed that oilseed rape
pollen can reach weeds more than a mile away.
"If farmers spray their crops with the same herbicide every year, the only
weeds to survive will be the ones with the transgenes - and then the
transgenes will spread even faster," Dr Snow said. "That's why the area of
crop transgenes is so controversial."
Sue Mayer of Genewatch said: "We've been warning people about these risks
and they have been ignored by the regulators. They have continued to
license and encourage the development of these crops."
Zeneca, which is pioneering genetically-engineered crops in Britain, said
such discoveries were no reason to stop the research. "But we do believe
it is imperative that farmers continue to have a wide variety of chemical
and mechanical methods available to control weeds."
** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **
Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign,
for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term
Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596
Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html
contains more information on genetic engineering as well as
previous genetic engineering news items
Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 for 12 months
See website for details.
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