Field assessments of gene flow from transgenic to cultivated rice (Oryza sativa L.) using a herbicide resistance gene as tracer marker
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Development of plant genetic engineering has led to the deployment of transgenic crops and, simultaneously, to the need for a thorough assessment of the risks associated with their environmental release. This study investigated the occurrence of gene flow from transgenic rice to non-transgenic rice plants under agronomic conditions using a herbicide resistance gene as a tracer marker. Two field experiments were established in the paddy fields of two main Mediterranean rice-growing areas of Spain and Italy. In both locations analyses of phenotypic, molecular and segregation data showed that pollination of recipient plants with pollen of the transgenic source occurred at a significant frequency. A gene flow slightly lower than 0.1% was detected in a normal side-by-side plot design. Similar results were found in a circular plot when the plants were placed at 1-m distance from the transgenic central nucleus. A strong asymmetric distribution of the gene flow was detected among this circle and highest values (0.53%) were recorded following the direction of the dominant wind. A significant lowest value (0.01%) was found in the other circle (5 m from the transgenic plants) as was expected according to the characteristics of rice pollen. Such circular-field trial designs could also prove to be very useful in studying the gene flow to other commercial cultivars of rice with the aim of establishing strategies to prevent pollen dispersal from commercial transgenic fields to the neighbouring conventional fields.
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