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GM crops – OMG?

Genetically-modifed crops have never found the acceptability in Europe that they have in other parts of the World, notably the USA. There lots of reasons for this, ranging from ill-infomed two-headed monster theories to much more considered worries about environmental impact. A recent post on Wired picks up on a January paper from BioScience looking at glyphosate-resistant “superweeds” but accentuates the negative:

“Herbicide-resistant superweeds threaten to overgrow U.S. fields, so agriculture companies have genetically engineered a new generation of plants to withstand heavy doses of multiple, extra-toxic weed-killing chemicals. It’s a more intensive version of the same approach that made the resistant superweeds such a problem — and some scientists think it will fuel the evolution of the worst superweeds yet.”

largely ignoring scientific advice that doesn’t fit in with a good story:

“This kind of resistance isn’t very widespread. It usually has a fitness cost associated with it and doesn’t get to a high frequency in populations”
“It is unlikely that the stacked herbicide resistance traits and associated herbicide use would push weed evolution towards a Lolium-type metabolic resistance”

So it looks likely that the hysteria surrounding GM crops is going to continue for some time. After all, it does sell newspapers.

Navigating a Critical Juncture for Sustainable Weed Management. (2012) BioScience 62 (1): 75–84


Related: GM wheat scientists at Rothamsted make plea to protesters


AJ Cann

Alan Cann is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Leicester and formerly Internet Consulting Editor for AoB.

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