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Mr. Smarty Plants - GMO/GE crops killing wildflowers and insects

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Friday - October 31, 2008

From: Mount Lebanon, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: GMO/GE crops killing wildflowers and insects
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi, I've read where GMO/GE crops in other countries were killing the wildflowers and insects adjacent to those fields. Have you had any reports of this North America. Best regards.

ANSWER:

Crops have been genetically engineered to resist insects, pathogens and herbicides; but so far as I know, they haven't been successfully modified to be allelopathic (capable of releasing chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants) even though there are numerous plants that are naturally allelopathic.  Many of the plants that have this capability are considered weeds (e.g. Centaurea diffusa, diffuse knapweed), but several crop plants have some allelopathic capabilities (e.g., Oryza sativa, rice and Triticum aestivum, wheat).   I have read a report from Great Britain that says that the numbers of broad-leaved wildflowers and insects had been reduced near genetically modified oilseed rape fields.  The study compared the diversity and numbers of broad-leaved wildflowers and insects (butterflies and bees) between genetically modified (GM) fields and conventional oilseed rape fields and determined that there were fewer broad-leaved plants such as chickweed and fewer butterflies and bees in the GM fields than in the conventional fields.  The reason the plants and insects near the GMO/GE plants are being killed is not because the GMO/GE plants have been genetically altered to be allelopathic, but because of the herbicides being used. The GM plants have been engineered to have high resistance to herbicides that would kill the conventional plant; therefore, the farmers can now use a strong, broad-spectrum herbicide that kills many of the wildflowers.  The insect decline is tied to the fact that there are fewer broad-leaved wildflowers for them to feed on.  I've done an extensive search (both on the internet and in academic bibliographic databases) for reports of wildflower and insect decline linked to GMP/GE crops in the US, but so far I haven't found any references to a decline.

 

 

 

 

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