Genetic engineering 'does not make oilseed rape more invasive'
The tests, conducted over the past three years, studied the risk of 'invasion' by oilseed rape if it carried extra, foreign genes. In a report published today, the researchers say that where they did see a difference, the engineered crops were less invasive and less persistent.
The scientists, from Imperial College, present their work in today's issue of the science journal Nature. In an accompanying article, Peter Kareiva, from the department of zoology at the University of Washington, predicts that the work will help to guide other scientists trying to assess the invasiveness of engineered plants.
But the pounds 1m study has been criticised by Mark Williamson, a member of the Government's Advisory Committee on Release to the Environment, which approved the trials. He said the experiments looked only at 'natural' habitats, not at the agricultural or semi-agricultural stretches that represent the majority of UK land cover.
This was where the biggest anxieties lay, since vegetable growers feared that plants such as those given genes making them resistant to herbicide might cross-pollinate with wild species and make these more difficult for farmers to eradicate. Professor Williamson said: 'The experiments asked 'is oilseed rape going to become a pest?' in habitats where we already know the answer is no.'
But Mick Crawley, who led the study, said the researchers created conditions in each of the habitats that were ideal for oilseed rape. 'We used disturbed ground, free from competitors.' The chosen spots, in Sutherland, Scotland, Bodmin, Cornwall and Ascot in Berkshire, included estuarine oak woodland, grassland, waste ground, bracken and peat bog. Professor Crawley said the engineered plants grew in all of the habitats.
Natural habitats were important because they went unnoticed by farmers. 'That's where problems begin and fester,' he said.
But he sounded his own note of caution: 'We must be super careful, however, not to extrapolate.' Other crops, engineered to be insect or drought resistant, would behave differently, he said.
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 Chelsea victory parade: Chelsea mocked on Twitter as 'tens of fans' pack the streets of London
- 3 US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
- 4 Woman, 21, dies after taking contraceptive pill that 'caused fatal blood clot'
- 5 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
How China's richest man Li Hejun lost $15bn in an hour - and made a fortune
Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Snoop Dogg on why he doesn't regret displaying misogyny towards women
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...
£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...