GM cotton hazards
Transgenic Cotton Harbours Hidden Dangers
By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Oct 20, 2011 (IPS) - Wild cotton in Mexico has been contaminated with genetically modified material, posing a risk to biodiversity, experts say.
This worrying conclusion was reached by six scientists at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) in a research study published this month in Molecular Ecology, an international journal.
In their article "Recent long-distance transgene flow into wild populations conforms to historical patterns of gene flow in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) at its centre of origin", the experts showed that cotton genes and transgenes can be transferred between populations thousands of kilometres apart by seed dispersal.
They also found that varieties of Mexican wild cotton that harbour transgenes (genes from one species introduced artificially into another) undergo rapid evolution, with unpredictable consequences.
"The genetic diversity of wild populations is very high, and that of cultivated cotton is very low. Gene flow can reduce the differentiation between populations, but we have no idea what impact that might have," the head of the research project, Ana Wegier of UNAM's Ecology Institute and the National Institute of Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock Research (INIFAP) told IPS.
"What we are seeing is the effect on biodiversity of 15 years of growing transgenic crops under permits," she said.