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Why genetic engineering flows off target

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

why genetic engineering flows off target

Story at-a-glance -

  • Weeds resistant to common herbicides — dubbed superweeds — have spread over 60 million acres of U.S. farmland
  • Researchers believe herbicide-resistance gene flow may be primarily to blame
  • It’s possible that pollen carrying genes for herbicide resistance can fertilize a nearby weed, leading to offspring that carry the herbicide resistant trait
  • A study of annual ryegrass revealed just how easily pollen may be facilitating the flow of herbicide resistance genes from GE crops to their neighbors
  • In a green house, using favorable conditions for pollination, there was a maximum cross-pollination rate of 56.1%; in a field trial, cross-pollination rates varied from 5.5% to 11.6% in plants adjacent to the pollen source, with rates decreasing in farther away plants

Weeds resistant to common herbicides — dubbed superweeds — have spread over 60 million acres of U.S. farmland, and the economic and environmental devastation caused the weeds is growing, too. Worldwide, weeds have evolved resistance to 167 different herbicides, and herbicide-resistant weeds have been reported in 93 different crops in 70 countries.

Scientists are now scrambling to understand how weeds are outsmarting these widely used agricultural chemicals, but it's often said that the spread is due to independent evolution via herbicide selection.


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