Elizabeth Wiltshire, of Waimairi School, asks :-

What would happen if a weed's DNA molecule was transferred into an apricot's DNA molecule?

Catherine Owens y d Novoa, a biologist with the Horticulture Department at Lincoln University, responded.

Firstly, in natural situations - gardens, orchards, or wild places - it is extremely unlikely that DNA (or any part of it) could move amongst organisms that are not the same type, such as from a "weed" plant to an apricot plant.

However, it may be possible one day to transfer some gene from a weed plant to apricot cells growing in special conditions in a laboratory. Secondly, those cells would then have to grow back up to whole plants. That is not easily done, even with the very best conditions. Thirdly, if a weed gene was transferred and the apricot cell grew into a plant, the gene would have to be expressed. That is, the coded message in that piece of DNA would have to be decoded, so that a chain of processes could be started.

Assuming all of this has happened, the gene from the "weed" plant could be a message to help the plant defend itself against a fungus or bacteria. In that case, if the apricot plant was able to express the weed gene, it could benefit by being healthier. If the weed gene's message started processes to make the plant grow shoots from the underground stems, then the apricot tree might start growing that way too. Whether that is a good thing depends on how much you like apricots!