Grasses that genetically modify themselves could help prevent spread of GMOs in nature

alloteropsis semialata flowers
Scientists sequenced the genome of a grass called Alloteropsis semialata to determine how it took genes from neighboring plants. Image credit: Wikipedia

Scientists have discovered that grasses are able to short cut evolution by taking genes from their neighbors. The findings suggest wild grasses are naturally genetically modifying themselves to gain a competitive advantage.

Understanding how this is happening may also help scientists reduce the risk of genes escaping from GM crops and creating so called “super-weeds” – which can happen when genes from GM crops transfer into local wild plants….

[N]atural selection acts on the genes passed from parent to offspring. However, researchers from the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield have found that grasses are breaking these rules. Lateral gene transfer allows organisms to bypass evolution….by using genes that they acquire from distantly related species.

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“Grasses are simply stealing genes and taking an evolutionary shortcut,” said Dr Luke Dunning.

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“They are acting as a sponge, absorbing useful genetic information from their neighbors to….survive in hostile habitats without putting in the millions of years it usually takes to evolve these adaptations.”

“Eventually, this research may also help us to understand how genes can escape from GM crops to wild species or other non-GM crops, and provide solutions to reduce the likelihood of this happening.

Read full, original article: How our plants have turned into thieves to survive

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