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Tougher Weeds? Borrowed gene helps wild sunflower

Tests of sunflowers show for the first time that a gene from a genetically engineered crop gives a wild, weedy relative an edge in life outdoors, say researchers. That extra toughness feeds worries that genes escaping from transgenic crops could create feistier weeds.

Thanks to a gene borrowed from the Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium, the sunflower variety used in the test makes built-in Bt pesticide. When researchers crossed these souped-up plants with wild sunflowers, the Bt gene passed to some of the offspring, report Allison Snow of Ohio State University in Columbus and her colleagues.

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