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Study: Genetically Modified Canola On The Loose In North Dakota

An unprecedented number of genetically engineered canola crops have successfully escaped into the wild.

Canola flower

Photo: Paraflyer (flickr)

Genetically engineered canola plants are proliferating as roadside weeds in North Dakota, scientists say.

According to a study conducted by ecologist Cynthia Sagers of the University of Arkansas and presented at this year’s meeting of the Ecological Society for America, herbicide-resistant canola plants are dominating North Dakota.

Researchers took over 400 roadside samples – one every five miles – and found that 86 percent of the wild-growing canola plants were genetically engineered.

Although the broader consequences of this transfer from domesticated crop to weed are still being debated, farmers have had to start plowing their fields again because Roundup no longer works as a method of weed control.

Some ecologists believe that plowing has a more negative effect on the environment than herbicide use since it encourages top soil erosion.

Researchers say it will also be difficult to prevent organic canola plants from being contaminated with genetically modified canola.

Read more:

  • In North Dakota, Genetically Modified Canola Goes Wild (Discover)
  • GM crop escapes into the American wild (Nature)
Megan Meyer

Megan Meyer was in the company of foodies for most of her formative years. She spent all of her teens working at her town's natural food co-op in South Dakota, and later when she moved to Minneapolis, worked as a produce maven for the nation's longest running collectively-managed food co-op. In 2006, she had the distinct pleasure (and pain) of participating the vendanges, or grape harvest, in the Beaujolais terroire of France, where she developed her compulsion to snip off grape clusters wherever they may hang. In the spring of 2008, Megan interned on NPR's Science Desk in Washington, D.C., where she aided in the coverage of science, health and food policy stories. She joined Indiana Public Media in June, 2009.

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