Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Genetically modified crops not necessarily a threat to the environment

23.05.2003


As concerns rise about the ecological impacts of genetically modified crops, a new Indiana University study urges a pragmatic approach to dealing with "transgenes" that escape from crop plants into the wild. Use of transgenic crops is becoming more common as farmers reap benefits from the plants’ decreased susceptibility to disease and increased marketplace value.



IU biologist Loren Rieseberg and former postdoctoral fellow John Burke (now at Vanderbilt University) reported in the May 23 issue of Science that a wheat transgene synthetically inserted into sunflowers has little or no effect on crop sunflowers’ wild relatives and is not likely to impact the environment.

"We found that a certain transgene that gives crop sunflowers resistance to white mold is unlikely to spread rapidly to the wild because the transgene doesn’t affect the seed-producing abilities of wild sunflowers in nature," said Rieseberg, who led the study. "We need to examine each transgene and crop on a case-by-case basis. Some transgenes will have major ecological impacts and others probably won’t."


For example, another study co-authored by Rieseberg, published last month in Ecological Applications, showed that a bacterial transgene inserted into sunflowers significantly increases seed production of wild sunflowers and therefore may incur ecological costs.

A common worry about genetically modified (GM) crops is that new, highly advantageous genes will seep through wild populations as crop plants mingle and reproduce with their wild cousins.

While the new report by Rieseberg and Burke does not refute that worry, the researchers believe that the movement of certain genes from GM crops into the wild may occur at a glacial pace, meaning wild plants in locations far from their alter egos in farm crops will not encounter the transgenes for a long time.

"The question isn’t whether these transgenes will escape into wild relatives -- we know they will," Rieseberg said. "Even if the wild hybrids are partially sterile or inviable, genes will still move across the farm property barrier. So it’s really the fitness effects of a gene that dictate the speed at which it spreads. Genes that aren’t advantageous to the wild plants will spread very slowly. The transgenes that are truly deleterious to wild species won’t move much at all."

The scientists introduced a wheat gene for the white mold-combating enzyme oxalate oxidase (OxOx) to wild sunflowers and compared wild plants with and without the transgene at natural study sites in California, North Dakota and Indiana. Half of the plants in each group were inoculated with white mold. At the end of the study period, Rieseberg and Burke counted the number of seeds produced by each plant. The researchers found that the OxOx transgene had no appreciable effect on the wild plants’ ability to produce seeds. Wild plants lacking the transgene made just as many seeds as plants with the transgene. Rieseberg and Burke also found that the OxOx transgene did not harm any of the sunflowers that possessed it when they were not exposed to the disease.

White mold infection has plagued sunflower farmers for years. Attempts at breeding natural resistance in the economically important plant have generally failed. Fungicides are costly and ineffective, and they may carry health consequences for consumers. The introduction of the OxOx gene to sunflower crops may help reduce their susceptibility to mold.


Both the Science and the Ecological Applications reports were funded by grants from Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., a DuPont Corp. company.

To speak with Rieseberg or Burke, contact David Bricker at 812-856-9035 or brickerd@indiana.edu.

Source: "Fitness Effects of Transgenic Disease Resistance in Sunflowers," Science, vol. 300, no. 5623

David Bricker | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://newsinfo.iu.edu/

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Advance warning system via cell phone app: Avoiding extreme weather damage in agriculture
12.07.2018 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF) e.V.

nachricht Fishy chemicals in farmed salmon
11.07.2018 | University of Pittsburgh

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Research finds new molecular structures in boron-based nanoclusters

13.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

Algae Have Land Genes

13.07.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>