19 April 1999
GM superweed found in Cambridgeshire
By FWi staff
BRITAINS first genetically modified superweed has been found after pollen from a trial site of GM oilseed rape crossed with wild turnips, say scientists.
The wild turnips, some which inherited the herbicide resistance gene from the GM oilseed rape, were discovered near a GM field trial in Cambridgeshire.
About half of the hybrid GM oilseed/turnip plants were able to breed, according the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) which monitored the trial.
Some of the hybrid plants proved resistant to weedkiller when subsequently sprayed with herbicide, said NIAB scientists.
Cross-pollination occurred over a distance of four metres, and it is likely that more superweeds will be created as farm-scale trials of GM crops get under way.
NIAB will now conduct more extensive trials to discover the rate at which GM oilseed/turnip weeds are created.
The new hybrid plants are smaller than their parent wild turnips and are said to look like hairy oilseed rape plants.
English Nature, the governments environment advisors, has called for a ban on commercial GM crops while trials are carried out to discover the effect on wildlife.
Environmental groups like Friends of the Earth are concerned that superweeds could out-compete other plants and disrupt the natural biodiversity of the countryside.
At least 10 genetically engineered crop plants are known to be capable of transferring their genetic qualities to wild plants.