Netherlands: Chance of outcrossing of transgenic gene is determined by position in the genome

Transgenes from genetically modified crops can cross over into wild relatives of the same crop. However, the chance of this happening depends very much on where in the genome the new gene is inserted. This according to research by the Department of Plant Breeding of Wageningen University. Results of a test with lettuce show, researchers claim, that a genome possesses 'strong' and 'weak' spots, and that this should be taken into account when applying genetic modification. The study was recently published in the journal Theoretical and Applied Genetics.

Ecological risk assessment is an integral part of the authorization of new genetically modified crops. The important question is whether the inserted gene in the GM crop can outcross to wild plants, possibly affecting the natural ecosystem.

PhD-student Brigitte Uwimana tested the possibility, crossing cultivated lettuce with wild varieties. Her tests confirmed the risk. To obtain a genetically modified variant of lettuce that is not harmful to the environment, it is important to preserve the wild plant’s genetic capability to sustain itself. In order to do this, the introduced gene should be inserted in a ‘strong’ spot of the genome.

This procedure, says Rene Smulders of Wageningen University, prevents the gene from ‘leaking’ into the environment, affecting the wild population.


Source: Resource - Wageningen UR

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