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GM Rice Passes Unexpected Benefits To Weeds

Unknown Lamer posted 1 year,3 days | from the attack-of-the-killer-rice dept.

Biotech 208

ananyo writes "A genetic-modification technique used widely to make crops herbicide resistant has been shown to confer advantages on a weedy form of rice, even in the absence of the herbicide. Used in Monsanto's 'Roundup Ready' crops, for example, resistance to the herbicide glyphosate enables farmers to wipe out most weeds from the fields without damaging their crops. A common assumption has been that if such herbicide resistance genes manage to make it into weedy or wild relatives, they would be disadvantageous and plants containing them would die out. But the new study led by Lu Baorong, an ecologist at Fudan University in Shanghai, challenges that view: it shows that a weedy form of the common rice crop, Oryza sativa, gets a significant fitness boost from glyphosate resistance, even when glyphosate is not applied. The transgenic hybrids had higher rates of photosynthesis, grew more shoots and flowers and produced 48 — 125% more seeds per plant than non-transgenic hybrids — in the absence of glyphosate, the weedkiller they were resistant to."

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208 comments

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first post? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44612407)

FIRST POST!

GMO CROPS? (2)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612583)

"Feed me, Seymour!"

Re:first post? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44613621)

FIRST POST!

Wow, now THAT was expected.

But, GM foods passing genes to weeds that are close relatives that increases their survival capacity? Who'd a thunk it?

GM Goodness? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44612415)

Genetically modifying plants and then letting them "run wild" in nature. What could possible go wrong. Wasn't this a horror movie or an Itchy & Scratchy episode?

Re:GM Goodness? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44612519)

I fail to see the horror in this. Do you expect that the weedy rice variants are going to become sentient and start killing people or soemthing?

Re:GM Goodness? (5, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612729)

I fail to see the horror in this.

If you were a farmer faced with a big bill for herbicides and a field full of vigorous weeds that it won't kill after all, you might see the horror.

Re:GM Goodness? (2)

Truekaiser (724672) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612843)

Not to mention monsanto has had the courts rule in their favor that patents follow the genes.
So if these weeds are growing on your property, monsanto can now sue you for illegally obtaining their patented product. it doesn't mater nor do the courts care that it got there by means beyond your control.

Re:GM Goodness? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44613057)

This isn't true and I bet you can't find one court case of it ever actually happening.

Re:GM Goodness? (2)

meerling (1487879) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613177)

There has been one case of Monsanto successfully suing a farmer that wasn't supposed to be growing that strain. He apparently bought it on the open market as feed, not seed, so he paid a lower price. I know it sounds pretty screwed up, but there's a reason they have laws like that. (Greed comes to mind, but there might be others.)

Did you know that truckers have to buy a different diesel fuel than non-commercial drivers? It's more expensive than the regular diesel, the only real difference other than price is the non-commercial has a dye in it so the tax collectors can identify when a driver cheaps out and buys the wrong fuel. This is just an example of where two otherwise identical products are priced differently and are required to be used for different purposes.

Re:GM Goodness? (5, Informative)

Ian A. Shill (2791091) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613425)

Umm, no. Trucks use clear diesel, just the same as cars. Dyed fuel is for tractors and other farm equipment, and furnace fuel. The difference is clear diesel is priced to include "road tax", whereas dyed fuel is not to be used for fueling vehicles that travel on public roads. As for trains, I have no idea.

Did you know that truckers have to buy a different diesel fuel than non-commercial drivers? It's more expensive than the regular diesel, the only real difference other than price is the non-commercial has a dye in it so the tax collectors can identify when a driver cheaps out and buys the wrong fuel. This is just an example of where two otherwise identical products are priced differently and are required to be used for different purposes.

Diesel, by any other name, is still diesel (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613711)

Did you know that truckers have to buy a different diesel fuel than non-commercial drivers? It's more expensive than the regular diesel, the only real difference other than price is the non-commercial has a dye in it so the tax collectors can identify when a driver cheaps out and buys the wrong fuel. This is just an example of where two otherwise identical products are priced differently and are required to be used for different purposes

Want to buy the cheapest diesel ?

Try home-heating fuel oil

They are heavily subsidized for home owners to heat their house during winter, and the only difference in between the home-heating fuel oil and the on-road diesel is that the on-road diesel has most of the sulfur removed

Back in the 1980's a group of Russians was raking in truckloads of money by selling home-heating fuel oils in gas stations they own, in New Jersey

Re:GM Goodness? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44613209)

This isn't true and I bet you can't find one court case of it ever actually happening.

Your denial is false. Here's "one case of it ever actually happening" for you: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/04/26/eveningnews/main4048288.shtml

Re:GM Goodness? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44613289)

Wrong, unless you consider soybeans to be weeds rather than crops.

Re:GM Goodness? (2)

srw (38421) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613247)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percy_Schmeiser [wikipedia.org] It's true, and here's a case if it actually happening.

Re:GM Goodness? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44613345)

Canola: also not a weed and Roundup Ready canola is a Monsanto product. Monsanto isn't suing people over them having Roundup-resistant weeds. That's not in Monsanto's best interest because they'd have to argue, in court, that genes from their GMO crops are jumping species--what a weapon to give the anti-GMOers.

Re:GM Goodness? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44612995)

They are testing the failiures in open feilds as well. If something like the GMO Klebsiella Planticola had gotten out into the the wild we would be sent back to the Proterozoic era as all plant life and concequently all animal life would be extinct.

Even if they did follow safe practices you still have the problem of them patenting life, allowing them to use these patents to hold back the progress of medical research. Just look at Myriad's ownership of the brest cancer gene.

What would stop a company like Monsanto that sues companies for geting their seed stock contaminated with GMs from suing you for not having paid a license because that jellyfish gene in that GMO Cheeto you ate migrated into your DNA and has shown up on a recent blood test? Dangerously cheesy indeed.

Re:GM Goodness? (1)

plopez (54068) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613411)

Think "Invasive Species". Fast reproduction, genetic mutation, resistance to herbicides, and since they are not domesticated difficulty in using it as a food source. If it gets into domesticated crops and destroys them the ghost of Malthus could rear its ugly head.

Re:GM Goodness? (1)

Neuronwelder (990842) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613731)

To add to what you said. I just read an article this year, in a science magazine which has found out this year that we are not an island to ourselves. We are directly affected by what we eat.

so (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44612421)

Who is Monsanto going to sue over this??

Re:so (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44612513)

Who is Monsanto going to sue over this??

Mother Fucking Nature.

Re:so (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613199)

And they'd win too, but I'd like to see them collect.

Re:so (5, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612573)

Who is Monsanto going to sue over this??

Why would you assume Monsanto doesn't like this news? If the resistance in weeds won't naturally die out over time, that means glyphosate will become less effective over time even if it stops being used. Since Monsanto's patents don't last forever (yet), that means they can develop and patent a new genetic modification and herbicide (and the "process" of using one with the other, because that is apparently inventive all in itself) that will be required once glyphosate loses its effectiveness. If glyphosate didn't lose it's effectiveness, people would just keep using that after Monsanto lost their monopoly.

In fact, I wouldn't be terribly surprised, given Monsanto's history, to find out they already knew about this "problem." Maybe even planned it that way.

Re:so (1)

Opportunist (166417) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612629)

They might like the news that their modifications don't harm other plants, but why do you think that'd keep them from suing? Wanting to have the cake and eat it too is hardly news for any corporation.

Re:so (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612767)

That doesn't mean they don't want to sue someone. They always want to sue someone.

Re:so (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44613157)

Are you kidding? This is exactly what Monsanto wants.
After 20 or so years from when their GMO patents are granted it is beneficial that it is no longer valuable. Next up is a new herbacide and new GMO strains and best of all, new patents!

In the absence of glyphosate (2)

Khyber (864651) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612437)

Which means that it's very likely that in the presence of glyphosate their yield will drop.

Which means glyphosate is acting on other biological pathways we still do not yet understand.

And yet we still consider this stuff to be safe to use.

I'd rather just use bacillus thuringiensis.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (3, Insightful)

drakonandor (937885) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612481)

Might be wrong, but bacillus thuringiensis is primarily used because of it's effectiveness as a -pesticide-. Glyphosate, as discussed here, is primarily used as a -herbicide-.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (2)

the plant doctor (842044) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612595)

Might be wrong, but bacillus thuringiensis is primarily used because of it's effectiveness as a -pesticide-. Glyphosate, as discussed here, is primarily used as a -herbicide-.

Both are pesticides...

Bt is used as an insecticide, both in GMO and conventional forms.

Glyphosate is a herbicide.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

slick7 (1703596) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612755)

Might be wrong, but bacillus thuringiensis is primarily used because of it's effectiveness as a -pesticide-. Glyphosate, as discussed here, is primarily used as a -herbicide-.

Both are pesticides...

Bt is used as an insecticide, both in GMO and conventional forms.

Glyphosate is a herbicide.

Monsanto is a genetic humana-cide.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44612507)

I'm not sure your logic truly follows. Just because it does well without the herbacide but with the herbacide resistant genes does not imply at all that it would not also do well with the herbacide.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

plopez (54068) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613423)

Except by wiping out competitors, some of which may be critical in the overall food chain.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

ozydingo (922211) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613609)

That's one possibility, among many. That doesn't get us to it being "very likely that in the presence of glyphosate their yield will drop".

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

tsa (15680) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612515)

Which means that it's very likely that in the presence of glyphosate their yield will drop.

Which means glyphosate is acting on other biological pathways we still do not yet understand.

And yet we still consider this stuff to be safe to use.

It seems on first sight to be a positive story but it's actually pretty scary. Who knows what secret abilities other GM plants have? How will you ever know that the modification you give an organism only does what it's intended to do?q

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613291)

Who knows what secret abilities other non-GM plants have?

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

mcgrew (92797) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612521)

No, I read the article when I saw it in the firehose. The headline is exactly backwards and doesn't even jibe with the summary. It doesn't pass any benefits to weeds at all. It does confer benefits when glysophate is used, as TFA notes. After all, that's what this rice was engineered for.

The interesting thing is that rather than unintended consequences, there were unexpected benefits.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612855)

According to TFS and TFA, the hybrid weeds produce 48-125% more seeds and have a higher rate of photosynthesis, both are beneficial.

But now a study led by Lu Baorong, an ecologist at Fudan University in Shanghai, challenges that view: it shows that a weedy form of the common rice crop, Oryza sativa, gets a significant fitness boost from glyphosate resistance, even when glyphosate is not applied.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

plopez (54068) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613441)

Until domesticated strains are wiped out by herbicide resistant wild strains....

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612587)

As luck would have it, I was reading this [wikipedia.org] earlier today...

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

slick7 (1703596) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612733)

Which means that it's very likely that in the presence of glyphosate their yield will drop.

Which means glyphosate is acting on other biological pathways we still do not yet understand.

And yet we still consider this stuff to be safe to use.

I'd rather just use bacillus thuringiensis.

If GMO rice passes traits to weeds, what does it pass on to humans?

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

ozydingo (922211) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613631)

That must be some kinky pr0n you're watching...

(Hint for the slow ... it passes these traits by cross-breeding, which is, of course, not saying anything about the presence or absence of effects due to consumption and digestion)

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (4, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612753)

Which means glyphosate is acting on other biological pathways we still do not yet understand.

Manure acts on biological pathways we do not understand, and some of the ways it does act are known to be dangerous. Yet it's a fully organic fertilizer.

In biology, if you wait until you know everything, then nothing will ever get done. Sometimes you just have to narrow down the risk to as small as possible. In the case of Roundup, a lot of studies have been done testing the danger to human health, and it seems to be no more dangerous than manure.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1, Informative)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612955)

In the case of Roundup, a lot of studies have been done testing the danger to human health, and it seems to be no more dangerous than manure.

Well, there have been a lot of studies run by Monsanto that seem to show that. But then there are other studies [huffingtonpost.com] that show links to Parkinson's and Autism [mdpi.com] , cancer, degradation of soil nutrients [wiley.com] , as well as lethal effects in amphibians [pitt.edu] , and perhaps most alarming, a recent study found roundup in the urine of 44% of European Union citizens [wsj.com] . Not only that, but it seems that it is actually many of the adjucts used in Roundup applications that are being shown to have the most toxicity [organicconsumers.org] , an issue most of the studies completely ignore by studying only the glyphosate, instead of the entirety of the compounds being used in such abundance.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (2)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613509)

Great, you have some exploratory studies that show potential research avenues for further looking into. Now compare those to the known negative effects of manure, and you'll have a more complete view of the topic.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (2)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613549)

Great, you have some exploratory studies that show potential research avenues for further looking into. Now compare those to the known negative effects of manure, and you'll have a more complete view of the topic.

Because Roundup has just as long and wide-spread history of use in human agriculture as manure?

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613679)

Because you're foolish if you only look at one side of an issue.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613227)

Manure acts on biological pathways we do not understand, and some of the ways it does act are known to be dangerous.

But whatever the supposed dangers of manure, it has been used for thousands of years without any observed significant ill effect. I'd call that a pretty solid testing period.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613293)

But whatever the supposed dangers of manure, it has been used for thousands of years without any observed significant ill effect.

There's plenty of ill effect from using manure. I don't even know why you would not think that putting shit on food would not cause ill effect.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

TCPhotography (1245814) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613297)

Without proper sanitation, it's a known pathway for pathogens - you see it every so often in leafy greens from California (and other places) when feces end up in the fields.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613475)

"Without proper sanitation" being the key phrase. In other words it's known how to use it properly. Very few things are so idiot proof that they can't be used incorrectly.

As for "you see it every so often in leafy greens from California (and other places) when feces end up in the fields", the big problem there is human feces from harvesters who don't have a proper and convenient place to go. Yeah, somebody taking a dump on the veggies is a health hazard, but has nothing to do with the application of properly composted manure long before the harvest.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613487)

Indeed, in cultures where it is tradition to use manure as fertilizer, vegetables are usually cooked instead of eaten fresh to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Re:In the absence of glyphosate (1)

aXis100 (690904) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613283)

I would think it's just hybrid vigor [wikipedia.org]

Monsanto GM spin machine .. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44612441)

How to spin GM weed contamination into a positive story about glyphosate ..

Re:Monsanto GM spin machine .. (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612619)

I don't like Monsanto any more than you do, but you are simply projecting.

The article says this appears to be better for the weeds. It does not say this is a Generally Good Thing(TM).

ok so that was cheesey (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44612447)

Ok, just had to get the first post bug out there, sorry!

Just curious how many other GM crops have conferred special abilities upon their pedestrian 'natural' neighbors? It just seems to me the the potential benefits of GM crops with improved disease/pest resistance are outweighed by the possible negative side effects such as terminator crops, increased use of pesticides/herbicides, conferred resistance, and unchecked cross-pollination of supposedly "organic" crops in surrounding fields

Re:ok so that was cheesey (1)

Opportunist (166417) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612653)

The problem starts when weeds start to "learn" from their GM "friends" how to survive herbicides, which makes your herbicides quite ineffective.

Re:ok so that was cheesey (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612893)

High Times (a pot mag) reported last century about a 'naturally' occurring RoundUp-resistant cocaine plant.
The US sprayed indiscriminately in Colombia and a few plants survived and passed on the trait.
Evolution happens.
For the folks who hate Monsanto, the difference between a GMO Franken-plant and a regular, sexually-modified plant is a matter of years or decades, nothing else.
But for Monsanto or Congress to expect natural selection to restrict itself to human needs seems bizarrely optimistic given the rest of evolutionary history.

Re:ok so that was cheesey (1)

Nanoda (591299) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612895)

Or wipes out competing plants entirely. I read a book last month by Paolo Bacigalupi called The Windup Girl [orionmagazine.org] which involved a world where multinational conglomerates owned the genetic codes for engineered plants, and engineered plants were all that was left.

Pretty scary that things are getting even this close to that.

Wait...what? (1)

djupedal (584558) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612451)

"A common assumption has been that if such herbicide resistance genes manage to make it into weedy or wild relatives, they would be disadvantageous and plants containing them would die out. "

...errr....don't you mean...not die out? And isn't the story here that a presumed barrier was crossed, not that it was a good thing...to some?

Re:Wait...what? (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612525)

No. We're talking about the plants here, so that's "disadvantageous" from the viewpoint of the plants.

Re:Wait...what? (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612529)

The assumption is that the gene results in changes that are energy unfavorable to the plant (the protection against glyphosate is presumably not free, requiring the production of extra proteins or something. I'm not a biologists, not sure how the resistance works). This energy deficit in herbicide resistant weeds means they will naturally be selected against, without exposure to the herbicide. This is the case for bacteria and anti-biotic resistance (at least in most cases). Turns out, in this case, the gene has beneficial side effects, even if the resistance itself is not (absent the herbicide).

Re:Wait...what? (1)

Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612949)

" I'm not a biologists, not sure how the resistance works"

You got the explanation right, maybe you should take up biology :-)

Glyphosphate resistance is actually relatively subtle - the "foreign" gene that's been inserted is one for a protein that serves the same function as one of the plant's "natural" genes that is inhibited by glyposphate, but this version comes from a bacterium. It's different enough that glyphosphate doesn't bother it, so while the plant's "natural" version of the gene is affected by the herbicide just as unmodified plants are, the bacterial version of the gene keeps chugging along and producing the vital protein for the plant anyway.

The possibility that the "weedy version" of the same species (Oryza sativa) expresses less of this protein that it would be able to make use of in a cultivated field, or perhaps in rice, the bacterial version of the gene functions more efficiently than the "native" protein, or something of the sort.

(I'm hoping there are followup studies investigating this, it's very interesting to me, and I'm not even into plant biology...)

Re:Wait...what? (5, Informative)

Valdrax (32670) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612539)

The notion was that traits like glyphosate resistance bear a certain cost which would be why they haven't arisen naturally and been preserved. This can be seen in antibiotic resistance in bacteria, though even there it takes many, many generations for this to sort itself out.

So, if genes cross into wild plants, the idea was that they'd cause the "contaminated" wild plants to be losers, which would self-limit the propagation of such genes in the wild. Unfortunately, the opposite seems to be the case: the genes that cause glyphosate resistance are actually a win-win for the plants receiving them, meaning that they'll have a competitive advantage even without glyphosate artificially putting selection pressure on them, which means the genes will actively spread in wild plants due to natural selection.

Re:Wait...what? (2)

lkcl (517947) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612749)

which means the genes will actively spread in wild plants due to natural selection.

and we've seen how the introduction of rabbits, foxes and other non-naturally-occurring animals into australia worked out, and how japanese bind weed has worked out when introduced outside of japan.

i cannot begin to voice how insanely dangerous it is to put random genes into food crops like this. the nightmare i "made up" one day was these insane "time-bomb" crops, where crops can be planted and grow but the seeds it creates are sterile. "commercially" this is incredibly "valuable" as it allows total control over the supply. now imagine some completely insane person creating "generation" time-bomb seeds, which grow, seed, grow, seed then grow sterile. now imagine _those_ cross-pollenating with wild crops and other species. you'd be looking at a world-wide famine in 5-10 years as the time-bomb gene would be both latent and undetectable.

what really shocked me was that i heard *ten years ago* that time-bomb crops ALREADY EXIST.

Re:Wait...what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44612941)

seeds, which grow, seed, grow, seed then grow sterile.

you can achieve this through hybridization, no need for GMO there... I have a cucumber variety that is exactly like this : first years : fruit with viable seed, next year 90% male flower and some viable female flowers but the next generation will be 100% male.....

Re:Wait...what? (1)

Holi (250190) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613305)

Yes the technology exists to make plants sterile, but the use of the Terminator Gene [monsanto.com] has never been sold or used by Monsanto.

Re:Wait...what? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612557)

The only thing bad found (aside from the already known resistance weeds evolve for) was the headline. The real story is that these have higher yields than non-GM even in the absence of glyphosate.

Re:Wait...what? (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612935)

Not true. FTA:

it shows that a weedy form of the common rice crop, Oryza sativa, gets a significant fitness boost from glyphosate resistance, even when glyphosate is not applied. ...The researchers also found that the transgenic hybrids had higher rates of photosynthesis, grew more shoots and flowers and produced 48–125% more seeds per plant than non-transgenic hybrids — in the absence of glyphosate. Making weedy rice more competitive could exacerbate the problems it causes for farmers around the world whose plots are invaded by the pest, Lu says.

Having weeds that are hardier and more competitive, even in the absence of glyphosate, is hardly desirable.

Re:Wait...what? (4, Interesting)

radtea (464814) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612571)

...errr....don't you mean...not die out? And isn't the story here that a presumed barrier was crossed, not that it was a good thing...to some?

Nope. Hybridization is incredibly common amongst plants, so everyone who has ever given GMOs any thought has known all along that the genes would get loose. I've posted about this on /. and elsewhere for years, and presumably others have too.

The important story is that the GMO/hybrids are seeing some selective advantage, which is what people are surprised at: the assumption was that since these genes do not occur in these plants in nature, the odds of them conferring any selective advantage were extremely low. It would be like any random mutation: billions-to-one odds against being beneficial, because there are billions of ways of screwing up the molecular machinery of the cell and only a few ways of making it better (in part because organisms are by definition pretty well adapted to their environment in almost all cases... if they weren't they would have been out-competed by their better-adapted cousins.

I'm not opposed to GMOs as such, because it is stupid to be opposed to an abstraction as diverse as "GMO"--it would be like being opposed to "nuclear power", say, because one particular type of reactor has proven to be uneconomic. But putting responsibility for GMOs into the hands of a small number of global agri-corps seems to me a fairly bad idea because they are going to downplay the risks posed by the genes getting loose, be more concerned with deploying organisms that are profitable rather than sustainable (Roundup Ready plants are a good example of something I'm very leery of.)

Re:Wait...what? (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613271)

I'm not opposed to GMOs as such, because it is stupid to be opposed to an abstraction as diverse as "GMO"

A very sensible attitude, far from the usual unqualified pro or con.

But putting responsibility for GMOs into the hands of a small number of global agri-corps seems to me a fairly bad idea because they are going to downplay the risks posed by the genes getting loose, be more concerned with deploying organisms that are profitable rather than sustainable (Roundup Ready plants are a good example of something I'm very leery of.)

Gotta agree there too. Some things are potentially just too dangerous to be left to those whose only interest is making a buck in the short-term (and have a known history of being seriously sleazy bastards about it). Tetraethyl lead was introduced by people who knew damn well just how dangerous the stuff could be, but pulled all sorts of crap to hide that.

Re:Wait...what? (3, Insightful)

radarskiy (2874255) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613519)

To be specific, putting responsibility for GMOs in the hands of people *who do not understand natural selection* is a fairly bad idea.

Resistance (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44612487)

A common assumption has been that if such herbicide resistance genes manage to make it into weedy or wild relatives, they would be disadvantageous and plants containing them would die out.

Who made that assumption? The genes are good for the plants we go out of our way to keep alive but the ones we have trouble killing off would somehow have a problem with them?

Re:Resistance (1)

Artifakt (700173) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612985)

The idea is that there is always an energy cost in producing extra chemicals or biological structures in a living thing. If there's nothing around to make the extra chemicals or structures useful, the living thing would be better off not wasting energy making it. That's probably true in the vast majority of cases, but some compounds and structures have more than one use, and there's a second possibility (see below).
          The people who did this doubtless figured that there was a cost in producing round-up resisting compounds if there wasn't any roundup in that wild plant's environment. Again, that's solidly in accord with one part of modern Evolutionary theory. It would count as a real fluke if these compounds turned out to be useful for something else so the plant still benefited from making them. I'd expect most professional mollecular biologists to work from that principle and take it into account routinely. However, what the persons considering that probably did is, they thought something like "It would count as a real fluke if these compounds turned out to be useful for something else so the plant still benefited from making them, but it didn't already evolve naturally.". That sounds logical too, but the last clause doesn't always follow from theory, again because of the second possibility.
          What's that possibility? Another idea that's a solid part of modern evolutionary theory is that selection proceeds, as a metaphorical mindless robot, towards a local optimum at the time the selection pressure is being applied, never towards any abstract goal of longer term perfection. There may be many things that some organism might benefit from if they could be developed enough, but the intermediate stages have drawbacks and so selection never makes it 'over the hump'. These plants may have never evolved whatever advantage this gene gives them because there was an intermediate disadvantage unless the plant had the whole package. it isn't a fluke that something advantagious hasn't already evolved because of this - it happens all the time.
          There's probably several ways humans might have naturally developed with more of many traits we think of as positive, but they have short term consequences that aren't (for ex. there's an idea that what kept humans from naturally evolving down one pathway towards more strength is that the pathway has an intermediate stage where people get more succeptable to famine, and if we keep advanced civilization together for a few tens of thousands more years, traits supporting more strength will evolve naturally, just so we manage to feed a good portion of each generation without famine becoming near universal.
          Even the pros have to resist the tendency to say 'nature wants' or 'this gene wants', or other such phrases. It's hard to really visualize that selection has no goals, but proceeds mechanically towards the most locally optimum outcome, and take that consistently into account in describing evolutionary outcomes.

125% more seeds per plant.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44612517)

How far is it necessary to go before the "weedy" rice plants become a food source?

Obviously they have a good survivability in the presence of poor conditions. 125% more seeds might just make it useful with some other modifications to become a crop.

Re:125% more seeds per plant.... (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613021)

How far is it necessary to go before the "weedy" rice plants become a food source?

As far as they went to get the domesticated rice. Asian rice is Oryza sativa. The weedy rice they're talking about is a subspecies, Oryza sativa f. spontanea, that degenerated from the cultivated rice. So if you got the weedy rice to be a food source, all you'd get is what we already have as a food source.

It's like some selection is taking place naturally (2)

sandbagger (654585) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612537)

Weird. Who could have foreseen that?

Re:It's like some selection is taking place natura (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44612605)

Actually, it's a perfect demonstration of "Intelligent Design".

Perhaps they should rename that theory "Stupid Design".

GM Rice NOT passing to weeds (5, Informative)

NoKaOi (1415755) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612541)

The headline is outright wrong and misleading. The headline implies that GM rice is passing the trait onto weeds. That is not the case here. The study has nothing to do with whether or not the traits can get passed to weeds from GM rice. The study is not saying that GM rice passed anything along to weeds. It is saying that when intentionally GM'd, the weeds get benefits other than just glyphosate resistance. The stated conclusion of the article is that if the trait got into the weed it would be bad. Duh. The thing that makes the study a bit interesting is that it challenges a previous assumption regarding why it would be bad.

Re:GM Rice NOT passing to weeds (2)

ubergeek65536 (862868) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612669)

From the abstract
"herbicide resistance is expected to spread to conspecific weedy rice (Oryza sativa f. spontanea) via hybridization"

Re:GM Rice NOT passing to weeds (1)

NoKaOi (1415755) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612793)

From the abstract
"herbicide resistance is expected to spread to conspecific weedy rice (Oryza sativa f. spontanea) via hybridization"

Exactly. The study does not say it has. And this particular study isn't even related to how or how likely resistance would get passed to the weeds. The headline, on the other hand, says GM rice "passes" which means it currently is passing, which is a lie. I'm not saying the study doesn't mean anything important, I'm saying it doesn't mean what the headline says it means. It is the headline that is the problem, not the study. Something about journalistic integrity or whatever that concept was that doesn't seem to exist anymore.

Re:GM Rice NOT passing to weeds (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613173)

The headline says rice passes unexpected benefits to weeds. It does not say how or under what circumstances it passes them. You're making assumptions and reading something into the headline that isn't there.

Re:GM Rice NOT passing to weeds (1)

ubergeek65536 (862868) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613431)

No it doesn't say that it has happened. Only an idiot would release this into the environment.

That would be like the NTSB allowing a car on the road that they expected to explode under normal usage.

Re:GM Rice NOT passing to weeds (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613067)

Just to emphasize your point, the weeds they're talking about are a "degenerated" subspecies of the cultivated rice. They're the same species, which makes it awfully easy to pass on the traits.

Re:GM Rice NOT passing to weeds (2)

zippthorne (748122) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612677)

Wait.. someone intentionally created GM weeds?!?

Re:GM Rice NOT passing to weeds (2, Insightful)

minstrelmike (1602771) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612925)

Wait.. someone intentionally created GM weeds?!?

Yes. We do this with every chemical used on 'weeds.' It's called evolution.
It is similar to the way we are currently creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
What goes around comes around.

yes and no (0)

camus1 (2929993) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612591)

Genetically modified crops can be very good for future earth but with wrong intention this can lethal for our existence. Even if the intention is not wrong there can thousands of unknown risks....So in short....Don't dare to f*** with nature...

Re:yes and no (1)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612647)

So in short....Don't dare to f*** with nature...

As humans it is what we are best at. If you look at how dominant our species has been graphed with how much we fuck with nature, there is a pretty strong correlation.

I am not saying we should fuck with nature every chance we get, but rather that we should keep trying to do it in a way that is for our own good, rather than in ways that might cause us to get fucked back.

Re:yes and no (1)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612789)

in short....Don't dare to f*** with nature..

That boat sailed a long time ago (I say, posting from an air-conditioned office, built on land that was reclaimed from the sea).

Unstoppable? (1)

GigaBurglar (2465952) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612617)

I guess the domestic security state is unstoppable too, right? Why don't you just roll over now - oh wait..

Why would that be a common assumption? (1)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612625)

A common assumption has been that if such herbicide resistance genes manage to make it into weedy or wild relatives, they would be disadvantageous and plants containing them would die out.

Why would resistance to herbicide be disadvantageous? Obviously it might turn out to be, but why would anyone just assume that? If anything I would be tempted to assume the opposite.

Re:Why would that be a common assumption? (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613151)

It's assumed that the extra effort the plant puts into being glyphosate resistant (producing more of an enzyme known as EPSP synthase), which they assume serves no purpose in the wild (i.e. in the absence of glyphosate) would take away from some "effort" that the plant puts into being hardy under wild conditions. It's the same reason that cultivated fruit trees (e.g. oranges, apples) don't do as well in the wild as their native cousins. They've been breed to put "effort" into producing large fruits, which is great in the orchard, but is wasteful and evolutionarily disadvantageous in the wild.

Note that I used the word "assume" (in it's different forms) a number of times above. You know what they say about assumptions.

On Behalf of Monsanto... (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612679)

On behallf of Monsanto let me say, "Tough shit!"

So much for the one-gene one-trait theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44612811)

GMO is based on a one-gene one-trait theory. This kind of blows a hole in that. It was previously shown that modifying a single gene can have effects other than the originally intended one. This is just more confirmation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_gene-one_enzyme_hypothesis This doesn't mean that 'all gmo is bad', but it does mean that there is a lot of experimentation and risk being pushed onto the public. But don't worry, the government regulators have us covered.

Profit! (4, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612821)

1. Read an interesting article on GMO rice.
2. Totally botch the summary.
3. Even further botch the headline.
4. Submit to Slashdot.
5. ????
6. Your work is on the front page of Slashdot!!

So a higher yield of patented seeds? (1)

erroneus (253617) | 1 year,3 days | (#44612931)

I heartily expect the GMO, patent encumbered rice will be rejected all over. Nothing says "our rice will weed out your rice and sue you into slavery" quite like this.

Completely unexpected! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44613155)

Nobody ever once mentioned the possible danger of super-weeds. </sarcasm>

Seriously though, nobody ever listened to the environmentalists warning of this eventuality, instead labeling them 'eco-terrorists'.
Similar thing happened with the people warning of creeping fascism being labelled 'tin-foil-hatters'.
Where are we now? Super-weeds and an authoritarian regime in charge of the largest super-power in history.

Will people ever learn? Probably not, but I have not given up hope. Yet...

not a fitness boost (1)

stenvar (2789879) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613195)

The transgenic hybrids had higher rates of photosynthesis, grew more shoots and flowers and produced 48 — 125% more seeds per plant than non-transgenic hybrids

That's not necessarily a fitness boost.

By analogy, having the genes that let you become a top athlete isn't a fitness boost either, otherwise we'd all have them by now.

Not a problem... (2)

ilsaloving (1534307) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613335)

Monsanto can just sue the weeds for copyright infringement. Problem solved. ;)

Nothing to do with glyphosphate resistance (1)

Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613531)

"his colleagues genetically modified the cultivated rice species to overexpress its own EPSP synthase[...] genetically identical to one another except in the number of copies of the gene encoding EPSP synthase."

Whoa, I missed that from the summary initially - this is NOT the foreign "glyphosphate resistant" bacterial version of the gene they're talking about here.

This sort of thing ("gene duplication" mutations) can happen naturally - it sounds like this exact variety of "GM Rice" COULD have been produced by natural "traditional" methods (it would have taken much longer and been much more expensive in labor, of course). This says more about the potential for "weed" varieties of Oryzae sativa to mutate to be more prolific than anything to do with glyphosphate resistance being beneficial to weeds outside of cultivated fields.

(Also, as stenvar pointed out in another comment, having "higher rates of photosynthesis, [growing] more shoots and flowers and producing 48-125% more seeds per plant" is not necessarily an evolutionary benefit if the resulting increased growth, for example, made the weeds more sensitive to drought or more attractive to herbivorous insects or something of the sort)

Not that it's unreasonable to hypothesize that "weedy" varieties of the rice plant would get a similar boost from having more EPSP Synthase expressed regardless of the reason, but there's also no guarantee that the result will hold when the "extra" enzyme is a version from a different species (as happens with "Roundup-Ready" plants)

I would be interested in seeing this experiment repeated for other common crops that have glyphosphate-resistant versions, it could be useful to know if this affects anything besides rice (and whether this effect could be useful if intentionally added to crop varieties, for that matter.)

Re:Nothing to do with glyphosphate resistance (1)

hibiki_r (649814) | 1 year,3 days | (#44613593)

Molecular breeding helps increase the yield of wildtypes, film at 11!

Next, we'll hear that hybrid corn has better yield than straight inbreds.

Future Slogan (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44613615)

Monsanto. If it's alive, it's patently ours!

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