New study raises concerns about GM contamination
A new study looks at 14 cases in which GM genes have escaped into non-GM plant populations and considers which plants might be at risk currently and in future. The newer at-risk plants include eggplants/aubergines and various types of grass.
The open-access study is authored by an expert in this field, Norman C. Ellstrand of the University of California, Riverside.
“Born to Run”? Not Necessarily: Species and Trait Bias in Persistent Free-Living Transgenic Plants
Norman C. Ellstrand
Front. Bioeng. Biotechnol., 03 July 2018
The possibility of transgenes from engineered plants ending up in unmanaged populations with undesirable consequences has been a long-term biosafety concern. Experience with traditionally improved plants reveals that most cases of such gene escape have been of little consequence, but on occasion they have led to the evolution of problematic plants or have resulted in an increased extinction risk for wild taxa. Three decades have passed since the first environmental release of transgenic plants, and more than two decades since their first commercialization. Examples of transgenes gone astray are increasingly commonplace. Transgenic individuals have been identified in more than a thousand free-living plant populations. Here I review 14 well-documented consolidated “cases” in which transgenes have found their way into free-living plant populations. Some as transient volunteers, others appear to be persistent transgenic populations. The species involved in the latter are not representative of the current commercialized transgenic crops as whole. They tend to share certain traits that are absent or rare in the transgenic crops that do not exist as persistent populations. The traits commonly occurring in species with persistent transgenic free-living populations are the following, in descending order of importance: 1) a history of occurring as non-transgenic free-living plants, 2) fruits fully or partially shattering prior to harvest, 3) have small or otherwise easily dispersed seeds, either spontaneously or by seed spillage along the supply chain from harvest to consumer, 4) ability to disperse viable pollen, especially to a kilometer or more, 5) perennial habit, and 6) the transgene's fitness effects in the recipient environment are beneficial or neutral. Based on these observations, a thought experiment posits which species might be the next to be reported to occur as free-living transgenic populations.