Genetically engineered rice may make weeds stronger

Photo credit: tanakawho Photo credit: tanakawho

A recent study published in the journal New Phytologist has demonstrated that genetically engineered crops may pass on extra benefits to nearby weeds. Scientists bred domesticated rice plants with wild weedy relatives of rice. They compared the growth rate and reproductive success of two types of rice hybrids. One hybrid type was created by breeding rice genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate with wild weedy rice relatives. A second hybrid type was created by breeding non-GE rice with wild weedy rice relatives. When the GE and non-GE hybrids were grown together, the GE hybrids grew larger and produced more seeds than the non-GE hybrids. This is the first study to demonstrate that the accidental escape of genes from genetically modified plants may lead to more aggressive weeds—even when glyphosate is not used.