Geoffrey Brumfiel reports for NPR:
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.
Canola plants are used in cooking oil and animal feed, as well as some forms of biodiesel, and nearly all of America’s canola is grown in North Dakota.