"Genetically modified crops are commonplace in fields across the United States, but a new study suggests that some plants have spread into the wild. A survey of North Dakota has turned up hundreds of genetically modified canola plants growing along roads across the state.
The results, presented Friday at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Pittsburgh, show that the vast majority of feral canola plants in the state contain artificial genes that make them resistant to herbicides. Researchers also found two plants that contained traits from multiple genetically modified varieties, suggesting that genetically modified plants are breeding in the wild.
"What we've demonstrated in this study is a large-scale escape of a genetically modified crop in the United States," says Cindy Sagers, an ecologist at the University of Arkansas, who led the study.
Few scientists believe that the canola plants pose an environmental risk, but the study highlights the ease with which some genetically modified plants can spread beyond their fields."
Geoffrey Brumfiel reports for NPR's Morning Edition August 6, 2010.