Applications to release genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment, usually the agricultural environment, are increasing exponentially. Many involve crop plants that are also weeds. Studies of biological invasions and of biological control show that the probability that a genetically new organism establishing itself is small; it is also unpredictable and in some cases could have severe ecological effects. GMOs pose risks both because they will be released in large numbers and because the greater the genetic novelty the greater the possibility of ecological novelty. Molecular ecology is an essential ingredient in ensuring that risks are assessed efficiently.