Need Safeguards for Gene-tinkered organisms

klier at klier at
Sun Jun 27 20:03:28 EST 1993

Roundup is one of the more benign chemical herbicides, and about
the only one I'm comfortable working around.  I can see a certain utility
in putting glyphosate resistance in corn or soybeans, neither of which has
companion weedy races in the countries most likely to use this gene...

On the other hand, putting glyphosate resistance into corn's close
relative, sorghum, strikes me as a very poor idea, since there are
companion weedy strains of sorghum, and a very bad, weedy congeneric,
johnsongrass, that grow almost everywhere sorghum grows.  If the glyphosate
resistance gene is passed to shattercanes and johnsongrasses, I
think we can guarantee some very upset farmers, ranchers and
weed commissioners.

If glyphosate resistance is bred or engineered into corn, we might
well be able to substitute glyphosate for some of the witches brews
of broadleaf and grass herbicides presently poured on corn fields.
That, I would think, would be a positive result.  But the thought of
losing a fairly low-toxicity herbicide because resistance had been
accidentally passed to weeds is more than a bit off-putting. 

Like almost every other technological tour de force, gene tinkering
can be good or bad depending on how it's used.

Kay Klier  Biology Dept  UNI      (who never did understand all the
                                    hoo-haw over ice minus)

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