On this Moment of Science, we talk about the complications of genetically modified plants and weeds.
We’ve all had weed problems in our landscapes. But just imagine your weeds with an extra gene that makes them toxic to insects and thereby increases their reproductive capacity.
Research is being done on genetically modified plants and the plants they crossbreed so that things like this don’t happen. In particular, scientists have studied genetically engineered sunflowers and unmodified wild sunflowers to see what happens when they crossbreed and thus exchange genes. The genetically engineered sunflowers were altered by a gene with the intention to make them toxic to certain insect predators.
When the two groups of sunflowers crossbred, the resulting hybrid flowers were successful in repelling insects, and thus, they produced fifty percent more seeds. And this new gene didn’t affect their hardiness either. The plants were still able to do well in harsh conditions with little water or nutrients.
My point is that research like this is important because it helps people make wise decisions about how technology like genetic modification is used. The idea is that in cases like this where a gene could enter a species of wild plants and make them hardier, the genetically modified plant will not be commercialized.