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Two major US-based seed companies this week stand accused of hindering attempts to assess whether genetically modified sunflowers can turn their wild counterparts into 'superweeds'.

A team led by Allison Snow at Ohio State University in Columbus has uncovered preliminary evidence that a transgene that confers insect resistance can increase the number of seeds produced by wild sunflowers, and could allow the wild plants to proliferate as weeds.

But Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Dow AgroSciences have blocked a follow-up study by refusing to allow the team access to either the transgene or seeds from the earlier study. Although such a refusal is unusual, a similar situation recently confronted a plant geneticist from a leading US research university, who wanted to carry out an evolutionary study of Mexican maize.

Link to full Nature news article

Reference: Nature 419, 655 (2002)

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