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Modern grass based crops are significantly superior to wild grasses, they grow faster, are stronger stemmed, have larger leaves and higher seed yields in terms of individual seed size, giving germinating seeds a significant head start vs other wild breeds.

I've heard time and again that GM crops will escape into the wild with potentially devastating consequences, out-competing wild plants for space and destroying biodiversity.

So why hasn't this happened already? Our crops are already GM (albeit through different methods and over a much longer time)

Edit: I have seen the odd crop plant growing in the wild, amongst other grasses, but rarely more than one or two clumps of wheat or barely grass amongst a sea of wild grasses.

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  • $\begingroup$ Which plants do you have in mind specifically? $\endgroup$ – James Jun 30 '16 at 9:39
  • $\begingroup$ @James my question is specific to grasses, though the rhetoric regarding GM plants depends on the particular GM technology being attacked. $\endgroup$ – Troyseph Jun 30 '16 at 9:58
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    $\begingroup$ There are something like 10,000+ species of grass. There are many GM crops and they have a huge range of modifications. If you're unsure about what your question is about, then please cite the article stating that GM crops will escape into the wild. Perhaps that will provide some insight. Currently the question is not clear enough to answer. $\endgroup$ – James Jun 30 '16 at 10:02
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    $\begingroup$ The selection process employed in agriculture selects for high yield, disease and weather resistant crops. Not necessarily their invasiveness, which would probably be selected for in nature. Perhaps there are some examples where they have overrun wild plants. $\endgroup$ – James Jun 30 '16 at 10:14
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    $\begingroup$ Also, "morphologically superior" seems subjective when viewed from the standpoint of agriculture, but from a natural perspective, is not so subjective. Any favorable trait might also have an unfavorable consequence, faster growth could mean more water dependency, stronger stems could mean weaker defense against harsh winds and weather. $\endgroup$ – Sudachi Jun 30 '16 at 15:18
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Modern grass crops (cereals) haven't run out in the wild is because that was the whole purpose of their development. What differs them from their wild counterparts are the domestication traits, like, seed shattering, uniform maturity, day length sensitivity etc.

Modern grass based crops are significantly superior to wild grasses, they grow faster, are stronger stemmed, have larger leaves and higher seed yields in terms of individual seed size, giving germinating seeds a significant head start vs other wild breeds.

This is only true under well resourced conditions, such as, irrigation, fertilizer, planned planting density etc. They grow faster and stronger because that is how they are bred. They are bred to utilize these resources better and produce better.

I've heard time and again that GM crops will escape into the wild with potentially devastating consequences, out-competing wild plants for space and destroying biodiversity.

What people generally talk about here is the genetic transfer due to pollen contamination. But this is generally hard because of species differentiation. Even if that happens it will be with very low frequency compared to wild population. As far as I know modern crops do not and probably will not out compete wild plants under natural conditions.

So why hasn't this happened already? Our crops are already GM (albeit through different methods and over a much longer time)

Explanation above applies here too.

Edit: I have seen the odd crop plant growing in the wild, amongst other grasses, but rarely more than one or two clumps of wheat or barely grass amongst a sea of wild grasses.

That is generally due to seed contamination due to somebody threw a seed there. Or it is due to remnant seed from previous year's crop, these plants we call volunteer plants.

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    $\begingroup$ I believe the OP is referring to the fact all our crops have been genetically modified through artificial selection and selective breeding, often just through domestication alone. The vast majority of our crops are genetically modified in this sense. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 18 at 4:16
  • $\begingroup$ In that case, true, they have been genetically modified. $\endgroup$ – SinghTheCoder Apr 18 at 4:19
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    $\begingroup$ It is a common issue in any scientific sense the colloquial usage of GM is completely unsound, there is no definition of GM that does not cover the either the vast majority of crops or such a small insignificant percentage that it you will likely never eat them anyway. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 18 at 4:24
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    $\begingroup$ Exactly. I find it funny when people talk about GM (the colloquial use) to say they have been genome edited but fail to realize that what we have today is all GM via artificial selection, selective breeding, mutagenesis, domestication etc. $\endgroup$ – SinghTheCoder Apr 18 at 15:02

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