Narrator: This is Science Today. The contentious debate over the use of genetically modified crops still rages on, especially since bio-engineered genes in crops can readily mate, or hybridize, with native plants. Dr. Norman Ellstrand, an expert in plant genetics at the University of California, Riverside, says crop hybridization with native plants has caused other problems in the past, including increased weediness.
Ellstrand: There's a case in California where rye mated with a wild rye plant that had been introduced and the hybrids became such a difficult weed in Northeastern California that the farmers had to give up growing wheat and rye in Northeastern California and change their lifestyle because of this weed.
Narrator: Hybridization between crops and their wild relatives can also cause trouble for endangered species, which happened to rice in Taiwan.
Ellstrand: The plants began to look more and more like cultivated rice and they picked up some of the detrimental characters of cultivated rice, such as susceptibility to certain diseases.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.