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Wild plants might be capable of resisting herbicides.

Weedy rice can absorb transgenes derived from genetically modified crops by cross-pollinating. Credit: Xiao Yang
A common technique for genetic modification of crops that make them herbicide-resistant has been proven to provide advantages to the weedy varieties of rice even when the herbicide is not present. These results suggest that such modifications may have a wide range of effects beyond the farms, and even out into the wild.

A wide range of crops has been modified genetically so that they are resistant to Roundup herbicide glyphosate. This allows farmers to eliminate most the weeds that grow in their fields without harming their crops.

Glyphosate prevents plant growth by stopping EPSP synthase (an enzyme involved in the formation of amino acids and other molecules). This enzyme could make up as much as 35 percent or more of a plant’s total mass. The genetic modification method used in Roundup Ready crops by Monsanto (based in St Louis in Missouri) involves inserting genetic material into the crop to increase EPSP synthase production. The genes typically come from bacteria that has caused the infection of the plant.

ラウンドアップ 畑 The plant can withstand the effects caused by glyphosate since it has an extra EPSP-synthase. Biotechnology labs are also looking to utilize genes that come from plants instead of bacteria to boost EPSP synthase. This is partly because the US law allows for regulatory approval that allows organisms that have transgenes to be approved.

ラウンドアップ Few studies have examined whether transgenes like those that confer resistance to glyphosate help plants compete in reproduction and survival once they’re introduced to wild or weedy cousins by cross-pollination. Norman Ellstrand of the University of California, Riverside, stated that the conventional expectation was that any transgene would confer disadvantage in nature if there is no selection pressure. This is due to the fact that any additional machinery would lower the fitness.

Lu Baorong, an ecologist from Fudan University in Shanghai has rewritten that view. He discovered that glyphosate resistance provides a significant fitness lift to the weedy version of the common rice plant Oryza sativa.

Lu and his colleagues genetically modified the cultivated Rice species to express its EPSP synthase. They then crossed-bred it to the weedy parent.

ラウンドアップ The team then allowed the cross-bred offspring to breed with one another, creating second-generation hybrids that were genetically identical to one another except in the number of copies of gene encoding EPSP synthase. The team discovered that the ones that had greater than one copy of the gene that codes for EPSP synthase had more enzyme expression and also produced more tryptophan, which is what we expected.

Researchers also found that plants with transgenic genes had higher rates for photosynthesis as well as produced more flowers and produced 48 to 125 percent fewer seeds per plant than non-transgenic hybrids. This was despite the fact that glyphosate was never present.

Lu believes making weedy, aggressive rice more competitive could hinder farmers to recover from the harm caused by this bug.

Brian Ford-Lloyd of Brian Ford-Lloyd from the University of Birmingham, UK Brian Ford-Lloyd, a researcher at the University of Birmingham in the “If the EPSP synthase gene is introduced to wild rice species, their genetic variety, which was really important to conserve, may be threatened because it would outcompete the normal varieties.” This is one of the most evident examples of likely negative effects of GM crop on the environment.”

The public believes that genetically modified plants containing more replicas of their own genes than those from microorganisms are safer. This belief is not supported by this study. ラウンドアップ Lu claims that the study does not support this notion.

Certain researchers believe that this finding calls for a review of future regulation of genetically modified crops. “Some individuals are claiming that biosafety regulation can be relaxed because we have a high level of comfort with the two years of genetic engineering” Ellstrand says. “But the study shows that novel products still need careful assessment.”