Original Paper


, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 325-335

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Does insect netting affect the containment of airborne pollen from (GM-) plants in greenhouses?

  • Thomas van HengstumAffiliated withInstitute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam
  • , Danny A. P. HooftmanAffiliated withNERC-Centre for Ecology and Hydrology Email author 
  • , Hans C. M. den NijsAffiliated withInstitute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam
  • , Peter H. van TienderenAffiliated withInstitute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam


Greenhouses are a well-accepted containment strategy to grow and study genetically modified plants (GM) before release into the environment. Various containment levels are requested by national regulations to minimize GM pollen escape. We tested the amount of pollen escaping from a standard greenhouse, which can be used for EU containment classes 1 and 2. More specifically, we investigated the hypothesis whether pollen escape could be minimized by insect-proof netting in front of the roof windows, since the turbulent airflow around the mesh wiring could avoid pollen from escaping. We studied the pollen flow out of greenhouses with and without insect netting of two non-transgenic crops, Ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) and Corn (Zea Mays). Pollen flow was assessed with Rotorod® pollen samplers positioned inside and outside the greenhouse’ roof windows. A significant proportion of airborne pollen inside the greenhouse leaves through roof windows. Moreover, the lighter pollen of Lolium escaped more readily than the heavier pollen of Maize. In contrast to our expectations, we did not identify any reduction in pollen flow with insect netting in front of open windows, even under induced airflow conditions. We conclude that insect netting, often present by default in greenhouses, is not effective in preventing pollen escape from greenhouses of wind-pollinated plants for containment classes 1 or 2. Further research would be needed to investigate whether other alternative strategies, including biotic ones, are more effective.


Genetically modified plants Greenhouse Hybridization Pollen escape Regulation Turbulence