After a 10-year study, scientists have allayed environmentalists fears by confirming that GM crops will not become super-weeds by crossbreeding with wild plants and invading the habitat of conventional crops.
Alongside conventional crops in twelve different UK habitats, researchers from the Imperial College, London, planted GM potato, maize, sugar beet and oilseed rape. Their results, contrary to those of Canadian studies on GM rape, showed that GM crops were actually overtaken by conventional weeds, and died out earlier than the conventional crops.
The study was welcomed by CropGen, a scientific group supported by the crop industry, who welcomed news that GM crops did turn into harmful “super-weeds.”
Others reacted to the findings with scepticism, however. Environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth agreed that the research added to the industry’s knowledge of certain GM crops in the wild, but stressed that their concern was with the use of GM crops in the managed, agricultural environment.
Rosemary Hails, one of the authors who reported on the research in scientific journal Nature, argues that the results were expected because the traits of GM crops planted were not engineered to survive in the wild. She then admitted that the test results provide no guarantees for the behaviour of modern GM crops, which are designed to withstand natural pests or even droughts.