Caring for and Healing the Earth

Genetically Modified Plants and Food

Mutant turnips raise GM fears

From the London Metro - April 19, 1999

Scientists have discovered the first super weeds in Britain, raising fresh fears about the impact of genetically modified crops.

The weeds have developed a resistance to pesticides after being pollinated by a nearby field of experimental GM oilseed rape being grown near Cambridge.

Environmentalists last night seized on the discovery, claiming it is the first example of GM crops passing on their engineered traits to indigenous British species.

The affected crops are turnip plants, which are treated as weeds by farmers and grow naturally in and around oilseed rape plots.

The discovery was made by scientists from the Government sponsored National Institute of Agricultural Botany, who are monitoring the GM test crops.

They tried killing the mutant plant - described as looking more like 'small, hairy oilseed rape' than turnips - with weed killer, but failed.

They also found that about half of the mutants were able to breed and pass on their GM traits. Pete Riley, food and biotechnology campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: 'The Government should act quickly as the French have done to ban the planting of crops with wild relatives to prevent crossbreeding.'

The Government scientists now intend to test the mutant weed to find out how quickly the GM oilseed rape is able to reproduce.

In general, they still insist that the chance of crossbreeding with other species is small although further trials would increase the risk.

GM food critics have repeatedly warned of the danger of pesticide resistant crops spreading their genes to weeds. They fear it will lead to a plague of super weeds spreading throughout the countryside, harming the environment and ruining crops.


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