Gene flow, risk assessment and the environmental release of transgenic plants
Chandler, S. and Dunwell, J. M. (2008) Gene flow, risk assessment and the environmental release of transgenic plants. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, 27 (1). pp. 25-49. ISSN 0735-2689
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1080/07352680802053916
The release of genetically modified plants is governed by regulations that aim to provide an assessment of potential impact on the environment. One of the most important components of this risk assessment is an evaluation of the probability of gene flow. In this review, we provide an overview of the current literature on gene flow from transgenic plants, providing a framework of issues for those considering the release of a transgenic plant into the environment. For some plants gene flow from transgenic crops is well documented, and this information is discussed in detail in this review. Mechanisms of gene flow vary from plant species to plant species and range from the possibility of asexual propagation, short- or long-distance pollen dispersal mediated by insects or wind and seed dispersal. Volunteer populations of transgenic plants may occur where seed is inadvertently spread during harvest or commercial distribution. If there are wild populations related to the transgenic crop then hybridization and eventually introgression in the wild may occur, as it has for herbicide resistant transgenic oilseed rape (Brassica napus). Tools to measure the amount of gene flow, experimental data measuring the distance of pollen dispersal, and experiments measuring hybridization and seed survivability are discussed in this review. The various methods that have been proposed to prevent gene flow from genetically modified plants are also described. The current "transgenic traits'! in the major crops confer resistance to herbicides and certain insects. Such traits could confer a selective advantage (an increase in fitness) in wild plant populations in some circumstances, were gene flow to occur. However, there is ample evidence that gene flow from crops to related wild species occurred before the development of transgenic crops and this should be taken into account in the risk assessment process.