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Commercialization of Perennial GE Crops: Looming Challenges for Regulatory Frameworks


Overall, the deregulation of genetically engineered (GE) crops for commercial cultivation in North America has been a success story. In several cases, however, GE crops have sparked concerns and disagreements among the stakeholders and there are incidences of court lawsuits, including a recent one on glyphosate resistant (GR) alfalfa (Medicago sativa, L.). While GE crops can provide operational benefits to farmers, challenges are looming from commercialization of perennial GE crops. The unique ecology and biology of these crops and GE alfalfa in particular can facilitate adventitious presence (AP) of GE traits and it makes more visible that economic risks for conventional growers and food/feed producers have not been adequately addressed by the GE regulatory system in the United States (US). Asynchronous market approvals and the existence of a number of GE sensitive export markets create uncertainties among the exporters. Policy development in these fields may be helpful for ensuring a broader acceptance and market success of GE agriculture in general. The analysis is focusing on the US, although many diagnosed problems are also relevant to other jurisdictions—in particular if no co-existence policy is in place.

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The authors are grateful for funding from the Agri-Food Research and Development Initiative (ARDI) of the governments of Manitoba and Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and a University of Manitoba Graduate Fellowship (UMGF) and Manitoba Graduate Scholarship (MGS) for M. Bagavathiannan. This work was also supported by a visiting research fellowship to M. Bagavathiannan from the Institute for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society (IAS-STS), Graz, Austria. We would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers who made helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.

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Correspondence to Muthukumar V. Bagavathiannan.

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V. Bagavathiannan, M., Spök, A. & C. Van Acker, R. Commercialization of Perennial GE Crops: Looming Challenges for Regulatory Frameworks. J Agric Environ Ethics 24, 227–242 (2011).

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  • Genetic engineering
  • GE alfalfa
  • Adventitious presence
  • Co-existence
  • Regulatory framework