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Now Appearing in Your Garden: Superweeds

GM crops are designed to fight weeds because they areresistant to pesticides. This means farmers can spray theirentire fields and kill off the weeds without hurting theircrops. But this process is creating Superweeds, which havecross-bred with the pesticide-resistant GM crops so thatthey are impossible to get rid of and produce more seeds, so they invade other fields, as well.

Two separate studies, on sunflowers in the U.S. and sugarbeets in France, show that weeds and GM food crops easilyswap genes. Wild sunflowers became hardier and produced 50%more seeds when crossed with GM sunflowers that wereprogrammed to be resistant to moth larvae. When PioneerHi-Bred, the developer of the GM sunflower, realized this,they abandoned the idea of selling the GM sunflowerscommercially.

The sugar beets swapped genes with GM versions, often to theadvantage of the wild varieties. The University of Lilleteam say they had underestimated the likelihood of GM beetsswapping genes with the beet weeds that grow among them.

Fears that normal crops will be contaminated by superweedsare less in countries where no weed varieties of the cropexist. For instance, soy beans can't be contaminated in theU.S. because we have no native weed varieties of soy here.But in Europe, there are weed species of both beets andcanola, which are both produced in GM versions, meaning thatcontamination is likely.


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