What if our newest invasive species is one that started in the lab and was unleashed on an unsuspecting world despite abundant warnings from scientists and others? And what if it is not even really “natural” to begin with? And what if this new invasive species, once liberated from a controlled setting, became even more potent and more persistent in the wild? Then you would be talking about genetically modified (GM) canola, which according to a report presented Friday at the Ecological Society of America, is now growing in the wild and is busily evolving into a plant that will outstrip our best efforts to contain it. It also has the potential to cross-pollinate and swap genes with other non-GM wild plants. More than 83% of the wild canola tested by researchers traveling through North Dakota tested positive for GM genes. But this is what’s really terrifying: some of the plants tested positive for resistance to both glyphosphate (Roundup) and glusfosinate (Liberty). Commercial GM canola is resistant to either Roundup or Liberty, not both. The dual resistance evolved in the wild, after the plants had escaped. The wild canola is doing what living things do—mutating and selecting for traits that will best ensure its survival. And all without our help.
A recent article on farm animal cloning appeared in the British Daily Mail. Following the births of eight offspring from a cloned U.S. milking cow, shoppers in the UK are outraged at the lack of information available and the absence of any labeling requirements. A recent survey of 25,000 European consumers found that 84 per cent believe we don’t know enough about the long-term health and safety effects of eating food from cloned animals.
Though the US Food and Drug Administration has ruled food from cloned animals to be safe, there are similar (though not as overwhelming) reservations among American consumers. Concerns about animal welfare and the success rate of current cloning methods have been cited by the Union of Concerned Scientists and others. Consumer advocates argue that there are concerns which have not yet been addressed.