Science News

Can Gm Crops Interbreed Wth Their Wild Relatives ?

Sat, 11th Oct 2003

Part of the show What are Stem Cells

It’s been an exciting week for those interested in GM plant technology with the publication of a report from the University of Reading, investigating the risk of GM crops breeding with our native plants. The team have been using satellite imaging and DNA analysis to look at the amount of crossbreeding between commercial oilseed rape and a wild version of the plant, and predict how many hybrid plants might results if GM crops were to be grown in the UK. These hybrids are especially likely to be found in areas where crops grow close to rivers, particularly in Eastern Central England (our broadcast area). This research suggests that just isolating GM crops might not be enough to stop genes transferring into wild plants, but we don’t yet know what the effects of this gene transfer might be. The researchers say that the presence of hybrids is not a hazard in itself and does not imply inevitable ecological change, but the results are useful to predict national levels of the risk of gene transfer from GM rapeseed as well as other crops. This week sees the publication of results from field trials of GM crops, adding more fuel to the debate about the merits and problems of the new technology. One of our guests next week will be . She’s one of the researchers involved in the hybridisation study and is coming in to discuss the significance of the new results.

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