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Genetically modified subterranean clover is unlikely to be more of a weed
threat than conventional subterranean clover, according to the CSIRO. As
part of a wider study into GM organisms, CSIRO Plant Industry studied the
environmental risk of GM subterranean clover as a potential weed in remnant
native grasslands, January 2005 by Paul Sellars.
CSIRO Plant Industry scientist Dr Bob Godfree said field and glasshouse
trials "provided no evidence the invasiveness and competitiveness of GM
sub-clover was any greater than conventional sub-clover".
"Indeed, at higher densities, GM sub-clover performs less well," Dr Godfree
Conventional sub-clover is a common pasture plant that can occur in native
grasslands. In the trials, weediness was determined by comparing seed
germination rates, plant growth and seed production, weight and dormancy in
GM and non-GM sub-clover.
"We found that GM sub-clover seed tended to be `softer' (and) so slightly
less dormant, meaning more seed was 'released' from the seed bank and could
germinate every year," Dr Godfree said. "In a good year 'soft' seed is an
advantage as the largest number of seed can grow in the favourable
conditions, but in a poor year it's a disadvantage, as much of the seed is
wasted that year, leaving a limited amount for the following season."
Dr Godfree said it was clear that in native grasslands, GM sub-clover
populations would decline over time and in pastures both GM and non-GM,
sub-clover might persist. He said while there were no plans to release GM
sub-clover, the study improved the understanding of the ecology of GM plants
and how they may differ from conventional plants.
However, the Network of Concerned Farmers claimed the study was a waste of
money. Spokeswoman Julie Newman said it was clear consumers were rejecting
GM foods. Ms Newman said that included food from sheep who grazed clover and
other products derived from animals that ate GM plants.
She said conventional farmers would not accept liability for their products
being contaminated by GM organisms. "Before they waste any more money on
trials, they should work out the liability issues first," Ms Newman said.
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