Scientists warn of GM superweeds

09 September 1998

Scientists warn of GM ‘superweeds’

BRITAINS top scientists are opposed to the cultivation of some genetically modified (GM) crops that have already been grown in the USA for four years.

Professor Alan Gray, a member of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, told the British Association science conference in Cardiff that crops engineered to be resistant to attacking viruses could eventually lead to “superweeds” through the transfer of the resistance genes to wild plants.

His views highlight the gulf between regulations in Britain and the USA – and differences between the scientists.

The US approval covers a transgenic squash, developed by Upjohn Agrochemicals. It contains genes making it resistant to a virus that infects watermelons and to another that attacks courgettes.

It was passed for sale in 1994. US Government scientists assume that plant viruses are particular to plant species and not weeds.

Professor Gray maintains that ecologists know little about the effect of viruses on plants.

The Daily Telegraph provides a backgrounder on the issues involved in GM food as well as a report from this years British Association science festival, which has had sessions devoted to the issue.

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