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Who owns life?Tiki looking at DNA molecule

Scattering the genes

busy beesWhat happens when GE plants grow where they're not supposed to? Or when their genes get scattered around by accident? When plants flower, they do it for one reason only: to make new plants. The flowers attract bees which collect pollen from the male part of the flower. The bees visit hundreds of similar flowers, some of which may be miles away, and leave some pollen from their earlier visits on the female parts of later flowers. The male pollen connects with the female part of the flower and combines its genes with the female's genes to make a new seed. This is called 'pollination' or 'fertilisation', long words for plant sex. Some other plants (like maize, a member of the family of grasses) use the wind rather than insects to carry their pollen around. This pollen can travel a very long way.

flowersIf pollen from a GM plant happens to land on a plant of the same species which has not been genetically modified, it fertilises the unmodified plant just the same. But the GM genes will become part of the new seed. When the seed grows into a new plant, it may grow up to be just like its engineered parent. It will be contaminated. This is one of the main reasons many people object to GE plants because there is no way to stop this contamination - called gene flow - if the GMOs grow in open fields on a large scale (as they do).

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