Genetically modified, pesticide-resistant crops have exploded in popularity over the last 15 years or so, despite warnings that Aristotle was probably right when he quipped that nature abhors a vacuum. Now scientists have discovered that we probably should have listened to the old dude, because nature is busy filling that vaccum with…wild genetically-modified weeds.
From this story on Nature.com:
_A genetically modified (GM) crop has been found thriving in the wild for the first time in the United States. Transgenic canola is growing freely in parts of North Dakota, researchers told the Ecological Society of America conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, today. The scientists behind the discovery say this highlights a lack of proper monitoring and control of GM crops in the United States.
__US farmers have dramatically increased their use of GM crops since the plants were introduced in the early 1990s. Last year, nearly half the world’s transgenic crops were grown in US soil ˜ Brazil, the world’s second heaviest user, grew just 16%. GM crops have broken free from cultivated land in several countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan, but they have not previously been found in uncultivated land in the United States. “The extent of the escape is unprecedented,” says Cynthia Sagers, an ecologist at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, who led the research team that found the canola (Brassica napus, also known as rapeseed).
Sagers and her team found two varieties of transgenic canola in the wild ˜ one modified to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide (glyphosate), and one resistant to Bayer Crop Science’s Liberty herbicide (gluphosinate). They also found some plants that were resistant to both herbicides, showing that the different GM plants had bred to produce a plant with a new trait that did not exist anywhere else._
The obvious questions is: how is this going to affect already-shaky upland bird and breeding duck populations in our plains and midwest ag states? Will farmers be forced to switch to harsher chemicals and more intensive farming practices? Are there more superweeds on the evolutionary horizon?