, Volume 104, Issue 1, pp 139-145

Using seed purity data to estimate an average pollen mediated gene flow from crops to wild relatives

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Gene flow from crops to wild related species has been recently under focus in risk-assessment studies of the ecological consequences of growing transgenic crops. However, experimental studies addressing this question are usually temporally or spatially limited. Indirect population-structure approaches can provide more global estimates of gene flow, but their assumptions appear inappropriate in an agricultural context. In an attempt to help the committees providing advice on the release of transgenic crops, we present a new method to estimate the quantity of genes migrating from crops to populations of related wild plants by way of pollen dispersal. This method provides an average estimate at a landscape level. Its originality is based on the measure of the inverse gene flow, i.e. gene flow from the wild plants to the crop. Such gene flow results in an observed level of impurities from wild plants in crop seeds. This level of impurity is usually known by the seed producers and, in any case, its measure is easier than a direct screen of wild populations because crop seeds are abundant and their genetic profile is known. By assuming that wild and cultivated plants have a similar individual pollen dispersal function, we infer the level of pollen-mediated gene flow from a crop to the surrounding wild populations from this observed level of impurity. We present an example for sugar beet data. Results suggest that under conditions of seed production in France (isolation distance of 1,000 m) wild beets produce high numbers of seeds fathered by cultivated plants.

Received: 5 February 2001 / Accepted: 26 March 2001