A study published October 11, 2011 by the online journal PLoS ONE reports that genetically engineered canola endowed with herbicide resistance have been found growing outside of established cultivation regions along roadsides across North Dakota. These “escaped” plants were found state-wide and accounted for 45% of the total roadside plants sampled.
The authors of the study also found that the escaped plants could hybridize with each other to create novel combinations of transgenic traits. In the study they conducted a systematic roadside survey of canola (Brassica napus) populations growing outside of cultivation in North Dakota, USA, the dominant canola growing region in the U.S.
Lead researcher Cynthia Sagers said, “More than half of the earth’s terrestrial landscape is managed in cultivated crops or forage species, yet we have little understanding of how domesticated plants influence their wild relatives.”
Regular crops also spread unnatural genes around
It should be noted that non-GM crops (conventional and organic) contain traits bred into them – which are often found and selected by irradiating seeds or exposing them to synthetic chemicals to create thousands of random genetic mutations – that can also spread to wild plants.
The authors argue that their result, more than 10 years after the initial release of genetically engineered canola, “raises questions of whether adequate oversight and monitoring protocols are in place in the U.S. to track the environmental impact of biotech products.”
A Costly Prime Example of How Easily GM Plant Genes Spread
Percy Schmeiser, a farmer in Bruno, Saskatchewan Canada whose Canola fields were contaminated with Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready (GM) Canola. Percy’s canola fields (which have been grown for decades by using seed he and his family saved year-after-year, long before Monsanto began producing GM seeds/crops) became contaminated from neighboring farms growing Monsanto’s GM canola.
Monsanto’s position was that it didn’t matter whether Schmeiser knew or not that his canola field was contaminated with the Monsanto Roundup Ready gene, or whether or not he took advantage of the technology; that he must pay Monsanto their Technology Fee of $15./acre.
Percy spent years in court with Monsanto and underwent enormous legal expenses exceeding $400,000!
Eventually the courts ruled in Percy’s favor – need I say – YAY!!!
Monsanto has agreed to pay all the clean-up costs of the Roundup Ready canola that contaminated Percy’s fields. Also part of the agreement was that there was no gag-order on the settlement and that Monsanto could be sued again if further contamination occurred. Schmeiser believes this precedent setting agreement ensures that farmers will be entitled to reimbursement when their fields become contaminated with unwanted Roundup Ready canola or any other unwanted GMO plants.
Percy’s story is told on DVD, Percy Schmeiser – David versus Monsanto a film by Bertram Verhag… Imagine that a storm blows across your garden – and that now, without your knowledge and without your consent, foreign and genetically-manipulated seeds are in your vegetable patch which you have nourished and maintained for many years. A few days later, representatives of a multi-national corporate group [Monsanto] pay you a visit at home, demand that you surrender your vegetables and file a criminal complaint against you requesting a fine a $20,000 USD against you – for the illegal use of patented and genetically-manipulated seeds.
Schafer MG, Ross AA, Londo JP, Burdick CA, Lee EH, Travers SE, Van de Water PK, Sagers CL. The establishment of genetically engineered canola populations in the US, PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e25736. Epub 2011 Oct 5.