by GMWatch.org 
Research from China has revealed a new dimension in environmental risk posed by GM plants: additionally inserted genes can enhance the potential for uncontrolled spread into the environment.
There is now evidence to show that this is the case for glyphosate-tolerant plants. Where there is gene flow from the plants into the natural populations, the offspring will have increased fitness and can spread their transgenic DNA more effectively than assumed.
Glyphosate-tolerant GM plants have been grown commercially for more than 20 years and are the most commonly grown GM plants worldwide. Nevertheless, their high potential for uncontrolled spread has so far not been investigated in detail in any official risk assessment.
There are some previous findings showing enhanced fitness of transgenic plants. Especially GM oilseed rape and rice have several times succeeded in introgressing natural populations. Contrary to expectations, the resulting transgenic offspring very often persisted in the environment and continued to propagate. Testbiotech has highlighted these findings numerous times.
Despite this previous evidence, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the biotech industry have always maintained that the newly introduced gene would not render increased fitness to the plants if they were not sprayed with glyphosate.
Now, the Chinese researchers have clearly shown that even in a glyphosate-free environment higher fitness does occur. They are demanding that further studies should be conducted, including the hybrid descendants of transgenic crops, to thoroughly assess the ecological impact.
According to the research from China, the additional enzyme (EPSPS) produced in the plants not only makes the plants tolerant to glyphosate, it also interferes with plant metabolism for growth and fecundity.
As a consequence, plant offspring can produce more seeds and be more resistant to environmental stressors such as drought and heat. The Chinese researchers stated that the potential cause of the observed effects could be a higher production of the hormone auxin in the transgenic plants. This plant hormone plays a key role in growth, fecundity and adaptation to environmental stressors.
Read the full article at GMWatch.org .