Original Paper

Tree Genetics & Genomes

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 141-152

First online:

Implications of natural propagule flow for containment of genetically modified forest trees

  • Peter E. SmouseAffiliated withDepartment Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, Cook College, Rutgers University Email author 
  • , Juan J. Robledo-ArnuncioAffiliated withDepartment Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, Cook College, Rutgers UniversityLaboratoire Génétique et Environnement, Université de Montpellier II, Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution
  • , Santiago C. González-MartínezAffiliated withDepartamento de Sistemas y Recursos Forestales, CIFOR-INIA

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Propagule flow in populations of virtually all organisms has importance for both the genetic cohesion of the species and for its interaction with natural selection. It’s relevance` for the deployment of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is that propagules can be expected to move, under a wide range of circumstances, and will carry transgenic elements with them. Any consideration of the potential risks of deploying GMOs in the wild must include an assessment of how far and how fast introduced elements are transferred to surrounding conspecific (and sometimes congeneric) populations. In practice, we need estimates of the rates/distances of both pollen and seed movement. There are analytical methods to characterize seed (maternity), pollen (paternity), and established offspring (parent-pair) data, but spatial limitations restrict the area that one can study, and these approaches require modification for application to propagule flow in GMOs. We can apply indirect methods to estimate male gamete dispersal based on pollen pool analysis for single mothers, when some degree of precision can be sacrificed in return for compensating gains in the spatial coverage, but the loss of precision is problematic for GMO tracking. Special methods have been developed for GMO tracking, and we shall show how to assess spatial movement of both transgene-carrying seeds and pollen and will illustrate with an example from Brassica napus, a well-studied crop species.


Forest trees Gene flow GMO escapes Monitoring Transgenic risks