Good evil

Pollen from transgenic crops is now known to have a much wider reach. This could spell disaster as the control of these resistant varieties-turned-weeds promises to be a tough job

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

POLLINATION brought about by the wind is a common mode of plant reproduction. Scientists have now found that pollen from commercial fields of transgenic crops spread further than was Previously believed (New, Scientist, Vol 148, No 2003).

The list of irritants causing transboundary problems has increased with genetically engineered plants joining the others like acid rain. Environmentalists' worst nightmares about the spread of weeds to far- off places seem to be coming true.

A study conducted by scientists Aileen Timmons and her colleagues from the Scottish Crop Research Institute near Dundee, Scotland, revealed that pollen from transgenic crop Fields could fertilise plants as far away as 2.5 km from the area of origin. This suggested that gene flow will travel further and in much larger quantities than was previously known.

The Scottish Study has disproved the findings of a 1991 study conducted by scientists front the Rothamstead Experimental Station in Hertfordshire, UK) which declared that pollen density 10 in from the edge of the field reduced by about 50 per cent and at a distance of 100 in it fell further to 2-11 per cent.

The SCRI scientists conducted their experiments in 10 ha commercial fields of rapeseed. Their Study revealed that the airborne pollen density reduced by just 31 per cent at a distance of too in from the edge of the field. Mike Wilkinson of the Scottish team said, "We have shown that pollen release and dynamics are affected by field site. We had earlier grossly underestimated the scale of pollen release in a commercial situation." The British team of scientists had experimented in rapeseed fields measuring only four ha.

The scientists are still not sure about the seriousness of the situation, nor are they aware about the end-result of the absorption of these foreign genes. I he problem could be massive if these resistant crop plants grew LIP to be weeds in fields nurturing other crops.

Till further research is conducted to certify the implications of this condition", scientists can only hope that Carriers dealing with with transgenic crop varieties are more careful in managing their fields.

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