This news seems to be a blow to the biotechnology sector. It seems that their assurances of genetically modified being generally safe for the environment may have been over stated. It seems that the mission of biotech companies trying to calm consumers fearful of genetically modified plants and their effects may have just taken many steps backward.
There has been a campaign started by people in the biotech sector trying to sell the idea that genetically modified organisms are perfectly safe. One of their assurances is that there is little possibility that genetically modified plants will crossbreed with weeds. And these people further said that if such plants do interbreed, the resulting plants would become unstable and would die out in a year or two. But resent research have shown the opposite with reports of persistent and apparent introgression of the weeds from one gene pool to another. It seems that this time, they were wrong.
According to an article on the Star Phoenix website, researchers from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada have been reporting about a genetically modified canola plant interbreeding with a weed that has produced a type of hybrid wild mustard that has become resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. The GM canola plant was developed to resist the effects of the herbicide, more commonly known by its brand name as Roundup.
The herbicide resistant gene of transgenic canola plant, Brassica napus, has been found to have moved into the gene pool of its weedy relative, the Brassica rapa under normal field conditions. This new trait acquired by the weed from its transgenic relative has been persistent over a six year period. And since this transgenic canola plants has been planted in over millions of acres in Canada as well as in some parts of the world, scientists believe that the process of transfer of the herbicide resistant genes into weeds may already have happened in multiple locations. This has become a cause of apprehension for organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in that the existence of the herbicide-resistant weeds can become widespread.
The result of the proliferation of such herbicide resistant weeds may be financially damaging to farmers, landowners and most especially, the environment. This has been the concern by organizations such as the UCS about growing such novel crops commercially. Although the organization is not opposed to biotechnology, it opposes to the casual approach of introducing new technology for widespread use before any safety procedures, regulation or testing of such technology have been developed.