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Daily News Archive
From February 8, 2001

Genetically Contaminated Superweeds Invade Canada

On February 6, 2001, The Ottawa reported that genetically modified "superweeds" have invaded Canadian farms. According to the article, canola plants, engineered to be herbicide-resistant, escaped and cross-bred with each other to form plants stronger than their parents. These three types of canola, each engineered with genes to resist one type of weedkiller, have merged into new varieties resistant to many pesticides. Because pesticides can't kill the canola plants, which are sprouting up in wheat fields and other unwanted areas, they have become the weeds and are burdening both farmers and the Canadian ecosystem.

Canada's Royal Society of biotechnology experts released a report on the canola superweed, which called the biotech industry "naive" in its thinking that good farming methods alone will hold superweeds at bay. The panel also warned that as each future generation of genetically engineered crops becomes more complex, it will be more difficult to prevent a similar disaster in the future.

"The next generation ... is crops that come along carrying genes that make them more frost-tolerant or drought-tolerant. They have an advantage over their wild cousins," Brian Ellis, a co-chair of the panel and molecular biologist from the University of British Columbia, told The Ottawa. That means they will have a bioengineered advantage in taking over farm fields and in moving through wild areas.