Research from China has revealed a new dimension in environmental risk posed by GM plants: additionally inserted genes can enhance the potential for uncontrolled spread into the environment. There is now evidence to show that this is the case for glyphosate-tolerant plants. Where there is gene flow from the plants into the natural populations, the offspring will have increased fitness and can spread their transgenic DNA more effectively than assumed. Glyphosate-tolerant GM plants have been grown commercially for more than 20 years and are the most commonly grown GM plants worldwide. Nevertheless, their high potential for uncontrolled spread has so far not been investigated in detail in any official risk assessment. There are some previous findings showing enhanced fitness of transgenic plants. Especially GM oilseed rape and rice have several times succeeded in introgressing natural populations. Contrary to expectations, the resulting transgenic offspring very often persisted in the environment and continued to propagate. Chinese researchers have clearly shown that even in a glyphosate-free environment higher fitness does occur. They are demanding that further studies should be conducted, including the hybrid descendants of transgenic crops, to thoroughly assess the ecological impact.

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