How far can it go?

GM pollen found in record distances from its source

Published: Sunday 31 October 2004

Planting of GM grass in golf-c pollen of genetically modified (gm) grass can pollinate wild species up to 21 kilometres away, indicates a study conducted in the us. The findings highlight the risk of gm crops contaminating their wild counterparts, even those planted far away. The discovery comes as the us regulators are planning to allow the planting of the gm creeping bentgrass on golf-courses across the country.

Scientists from the us Environmental Protection Agency (epa) focused on fields that have been growing gm varieties of creeping bentgrass in central Oregon for two years on an experimental basis. The grass was modified to resist popular herbicides such as Roundup. Lidia Watrud and her colleagues collected seeds from wild grass growing tens of kilometres around the plots.

They then grew the seeds in greenhouses and tested the resulting grass for transgenes and resistance to Roundup, which could reveal cross-pollination with the gm bentgrass. Watrud's team found extensive gene contamination within two kilometres downwind of the plots. But some pollen went much further, with 21 kilometres being the maximum distance travelled.

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