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Transgenic Canola Plants Break Free of Farm

Transgenic canola plants in North Dakota found a way to leave the farm and apparently reproduce off-site, leading to individuals with multiple transgenes. Molly Webster reports

One of the concerns about working with genetically modified crops has been that vegetation growing in agricultural fields might escape out into the world. Now, for the first time in the U.S., researchers report a large population of GM crops beyond the farm.

Transgenic canola plants in North Dakota had received genes making them resistant to herbicides, such as the weed killer Roundup. Researchers collected and tested 406 canola plants along thousands of miles of state roads. They found 347 carrying at least one resistance gene. There were also indications that the inserted genes were being passed on to new generations, producing some plants in the wild with multiple transgenes. The findings were presented on August 6th at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Pittsburgh. [Meredith Schafer et al., University of Arkansas]

The transgenic canola plants are not about to take over the world. But researchers are obviously curious about how these particular plants managed to make it in places like the edges of parking lots rather than pampered fields. Any answers they find will likely affect future biotechnology regulation.

—Molly Webster

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast]

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