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American Journal of Botany
Vol. 92, No. 4, 2005; Pages:
768–771


HYBRIDIZATION BETWEEN CROPS AND WILD PLANTS IN THE AGE OF GENETIC ENGINEERING: NEW RISKS OR NEW PARADIGMS?1

ALAN J. GRAY2

Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, CEH Dorset, Winfrith Technology Centre, Dorchester, Dorset, DT2 8ZD, UK.

Abstract

The global debate about genetically modified (GM) crops remains heated and highly polarized. In 2003, almost 68 million hectares of such crops were grown worldwide by an estimated 7 million farmers in 18 countries, an area which continues to grow year by year at a double-digit rate (James, 2003). Most (73%) of the area was occupied by herbicidetolerant soybean, maize, canola, and cotton. Most of the rest was insect-resistant (Bt) maize and cotton, but the stacking of these traits and the cultivation of crops with other traits such as virus resistance has continued to increase. Eleven of the countries growing GM crops last year were in the developing world where farmers appear increasingly keen to adopt the technology. By contrast, Europe, with minor exception (a small acreage of Bt maize) continues to oppose both the commercial cultivation of GM crops and, as far as trade rules allow, their importation. European consumers demand labeling and segregation of the products of such crops, and, led by highly successful and well-trusted environmentalist nongovernment organizations, the public have consistently opposed their cultivation on the grounds of potential environmental damage. Recently the UK government, displaying what is arguably a bizarre sense of proportionality, has banned transgenic herbicide tolerant sugar beet and canola because management of the crop could exacerbate the decline in farmland biodiversity, especially farmland birds, whilst taking no action either to reduce the widespread growth of winter sown, as opposed to spring, crops (identified as a major factor in the decline of several of the bird species concerned), or to prevent the extensive conversion of pasture to year-on-year forage maize (which has a huge environmental impact).

Keywords:Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima,Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris,Oryza rufipogon subsp,Rhododendron ponticum,Nasturtium
sterile
,Dangerous Liaisons,crops.


Corresponding author:

E-mail: ajg@ceh.ac.uk

 

 
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