Genes passed from crops to weeds persist for generations

MADISON, Wisc. - Genetic traits passed from crops to their weedy relatives can persist for at least six generations, and probably much longer, according to an Ohio State University study conducted with radishes.

This means genetic traits that are developed in crops - such as resistance to insect pests - can become a permanent part of the weed population, in turn posing possible risks to crops.

These results suggest that biotech companies should steer clear of developing transgenic radish varieties with beneficial traits that could be passed on to weeds, said Allison Snow, a study co-author and a professor of ecology at Ohio State University.

Transgenic crops are crops engineered with specialized traits such as resistance to viral diseases, insect pests and herbicides.

While the new hybrid weeds may not be as fit at first as their wild parents, they seem to regain reproductive fitness quickly, Snow said.

"It's inevitable that these and other fitness-related traits will make their way into weed populations," Snow said. "The result may be very hardy, hard-to-kill weeds."

In California, the crop itself has become a highly successful and very damaging weed. Scientists suspect that this transition was aided by genes from the wild radish. In fact, wild radish i

Contact: Allison Snow
Ohio State University

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