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Risks and consequences of gene flow from herbicide-resistant crops: canola (Brassica napus L) as a case study

Legere, A.
Pest management science 2005 v.61 no.3 pp. 292-300
Brassica napus var. napus, canola, plant breeding, transgenic plants, gene flow, risk assessment, pollen, seeds, herbicide resistance, case studies
Data from the literature and recent experiments with herbicide-resistant (HR) canola (Brassica napus L) repeatedly confirm that genes and transgenes will flow and hybrids will form if certain conditions are met. These include sympatry with a compatible relative (weedy, wild or crop), synchrony of flowering, successful fertilization and viable offspring. The chance of these events occurring is real; however, it is generally low and varies with species and circumstances. Plants of the same species (non-transgenic or with a different HR transgene) in neighbouring fields may inherit the new HR gene, potentially generating plants with single and multiple HR. For canola, seed losses at harvest and secondary dormancy ensures the persistence over time of the HR trait(s) in the seed bank, and the potential presence of crop volunteers in subsequent crops. Although canola has many wild/weedy relatives, the risk of gene flow is quite low for most of these species, except with Brassica rapa L. Introgression of genes and transgenes in B rapa populations occurs with apparently little or no fitness costs. Consequences of HR canola gene flow for the agro-ecosystem include contamination of seed lots, potentially more complex and costly control strategy, and limitations in cropping system design. Consequences for non-agricultural habitats may be minor but appear largely undocumented.