have been exchanging genes with closely related species
for millennia. It is one of the strategies that they have
evolved to cope with environmental change.
Now that plant breeders are taking genes from other species
and putting them into commercial plants to provide them
with increased resistance to disease and insects, increase
nutritional value and for other meritorious purposes,
plant promiscuity presents a potential problem: What will
the environmental consequences be when these genes move
from the fields into wild populations.
Some feel that these “transgenes” could upset the environmental
balance by increasing the hardiness of weeds and other
wild plants. Others contend that such risks are very small.
Now a study performed by plant scientists at Vanderbilt
and Indiana University find that putting one particular
transgene in sunflowers is unlikely to have a major environmental
impact, reinforcing the argument that such genetic modifications
should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
By David F. Salisbury
May 20, 2003