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misleading news release

David Kendra dkendra at MR.Net
Wed Sep 16 21:07:59 EST 1998

Elizabeth Lee wrote:

> This showed up in my mailbox yesterday via a producer's group.  I
> thought that the maize news group should be aware of this misleading
> news release.
> Liz
> Sept. 2/98: from a University of Chicago Medical Center press release
> Crops engineered to contain genes that give them resistance to pests or the
> ability to produce lots of seeds, could pass these genes to their weedier
> cousins producing hybrid strains of super-weeds, says Joy Bergelson,
> assistant professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago.
> Her findings will be reported in the September 3 correspondence pages of
> Nature.

So basically she is writing a "letter to the editor".  What data does she have
to support her claims?

> Artificially created plants, like wild plants, can breed with
> closely related species to produce hybrids in what is called out-crossing.
> For example, corn, which is a grass, can cross with timothy grass, an
> abundant weed.

How often does corn cross with Timothy grass in nature?  What is the hybrid
called and where can i get some seed from naturally occuring crosses?

> If the corn contains a gene that confers resistance to a
> pesticide, the resultant "weedy" hybrid may become a pesticide-resistant
> nuisance that can compete with crops for water and nutrients. Farmers
> haven't worried about outcrossing because most crop plants are
> self-fertilizing, so their genes were considered unlikely to migrate to
> other species. But Bergelson has demonstrated that plants thought to be
> "selfing" can outcross with closely related species, and that the rate of
> outcrossing appears to be enhanced by the fact that they are transgenic.

Why would the transgenic trait enhance outcrossing?

> To test the frequency of outcrossing in transgenic plants, Bergelson grew
> three different kinds of Arabidopsis,

Arabidopsis is a weed.  Corn is domesticated.  How can you make the leap from
Arabadopsis to maize?

Best regards,
Dave Kendra

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