Weed menace

genetically modified ( gm ) canola plants, grown in secrecy for experimental purposes, have been carelessly dumped in an open commercial rubbish site, triggering off environmental concerns in the South Australian city of Mount Gambier.

These herbicide-resistant "super weeds" are almost impossible to eradicate and Federal government experts have issued a warning that they could emerge after such plants cross-pollinated with certain common weed species.

Stringent guidelines have been set for conducting genetically modified plant trials since weeds developing herbicide resistance could pose a threat to Australian agriculture and the environment.

These experiments have so far been kept a secret from the administration and even the media. In this case, a concerned farmer informed the media of the dumped weeds.

The discarded canola plants were being secretly tested by themultinational crop science company, Aventis. They comprise up to three genetic modifications: herbicide resistance, the capability to make hybrids and resistance to two commonantibiotics, one used in human pharmaceuticals. The plants are also suspected to carry traces of the herbicide glufosinate ammonium, which is not yet approved in Australia.

Meanwhile, there have been newspaper reports of an emerging black market in gm canola seeds. Besides Aventis, another multinational company has been conducting secret trials of canola crops and they have spread across six Australian states on more than 200 sites over the past two to three years.

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