Saturday, January 04, 2003

Finally...the Media Horse ... has come back ... from the pasture!

And for some reason, Crackie Roberts has been removed from the MWO graphic.

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

In a bit of "I told you so about 4 entries ago..."

And now, out of the UK, comes a story that genes from GE crops readily contaminate nearby plants. There were several rather alarming conclusions to come from this.

The trial focused on a herbicide-resistant plant used for making rapeseed oil (known in these parts as Canola). First of all, the genes introduced into the rape plant was found in plants 200 yards away. Secondly, they found that genes used in 1996 that contaminated nearby plants persisted at least four years later. A method of contamination of nearby fields was the use of unclean implements - combines used for GE fields were not cleaned before use in regular fields, leading to dropping of GE seed in regular fields. Most worrisome, they found that the introduced herbicide-resistant genes were found in wild turnip weeds, which would confer herbicide resistance on unwanted plants.

The final conclusion is not in the least bit surprising. The rape plant is practically a sister to turnip, or the two are at least kissing cousins. So those two plants would breed very easily. What the conclusion should tell you is that if you want to grow something that's GE, there should be a few precautions. A surely incomplete list...

  • no closely related plants nearby
  • use equipment that is to be dedicated for use only with GE plants
  • use a sterile line of plants if possible
  • protect the GE field from environmental hazards, such as strong winds
  • dedicate fields for GE use and only GE use for a long time.

    To apply this to the Nebraska incident, what was not followed? Well, first of all, GE corn is probably a bad idea all around; as a grass it could interbreed with wild prairie grasses growing nearby, especially given weather conditions in Nebraska. Better to use something like tobacco (really) that won't breed with the weeds. Such problems may be forestalled by the use of sterile plants that don't produce any pollen, however. Secondly, the field was not dedicated to GE plants only, as normal beans were grown there the following year. Dedicating a field for GE use would forestall the problem caused by environmental factors - it was a hailstorm that helped deposit the GE seeds into the soil in the first place.

    Link via Barney Gumble.

  • Tom Zinnen of the University of Wisconsin summarizes the ProdiGene incident in Nebraska quite neatly. The Des Moines Register also had their opinion of the incident after it happened.

    More to come.

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