Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 15, Issue 7, pp 529–535 | Cite as

Hazard mitigation or mitigation hazard?

Would genetically modified dwarfed oilseed rape (Brassica napus) increase feral survival?
  • Hauke Reuter
  • Gertrud Menzel
  • Hendrik Pehlke
  • Broder Breckling
IMPLICATIONS OF GM-CROP CULTIVATION • SERIES • RESEARCH ARTICLE

Abstract

Background, aim and scope

Transgenic oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.; OSR) is estimated to be environmentally and economically problematic because volunteers and ferals occur frequently and because of its hybridisation potential with several wild and weedy species. A proposed mitigation strategy aims to reduce survival, in particular in conventional OSR crops, by coupling the transgenic target modification with a dwarfing gene to reduce competitive fitness. Our study allowed us to access potential ecological implications of this strategy.

Materials and methods

On a large scale (>500 km2), we recorded phenological and population parameters of oilseed rape plants for several years in rural and urban areas of Northern Germany (Bremen and surroundings). The characterising parameter were analysed for differences between wild and cultivated plants.

Results

In rural areas, occurrences of feral and volunteer OSR together had an average density of 1.19 populations per square kilometre, in contrast to urban areas where we found 1.68 feral populations per square kilometre on average. Throughout the survey, the vegetation cover at the locations with feral OSR ranged from less than 10% to 100%. Our investigations gave clear empirical evidence that feral OSR was, on average, at least 41% smaller than cultivated OSR, independent of phenological state after onset of flowering.

Discussion

The findings can be interpreted as phenotypic adaptation of feral OSR plants. Therefore, it must be asked whether dwarfing could be interpreted as an improvement of pre-adaptation to feral environments. In most of the sites where feral plants occurred, germination and establishment were in locations with disturbed vegetation cover, allowing initial growth without competition. Unless feral establishment of genetically modified dwarfed traits are specifically studied, it would not be safe to assume that the mitigation strategy of dwarfing also reduces dispersal in feral environments.

Conclusions and recommendations

With respect to OSR, we argue that the proposed mitigation approach could increase escape and persistence of transgene varieties rather than reducing them. We conclude that the development of effective hazard mitigation measures in the risk evaluation of genetically modified organisms requires thorough theoretical and empirical ecological analyses rather than assumptions about abstract fitness categories that apply only in parts of the environment where the plant can occur.

Keywords

Brassica napus Dwarfing gene Feral OSR Genetically modified organisms (GMO) Hazard mitigation Oilseed rape (OSR) Transgenes 

References

  1. Al-Ahmad H, Dwyer J, Moloney M, Gressel J (2006) Mitigation of establishment of Brassica napus transgenes in volunteers using a tandem construct containing a selectively unfit gene. Plant Biotech J 4:7–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Al-Ahmad H, Gressel J (2006) Mitigation using a tandem construct containing a selectively unfit gene precludes establishment of Brassica napus transgenes in hybrids and backcrosses with weedy Brassica rapa. Plant Biotech J 4:23–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beckie HJ, Warwick SI, Nair H, Seguin-Swartz G (2003) Gene flow in commercial fields of herbicide-resistant canola (Brassica napus). Ecol Appl 13:1276–1294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Benbrook CM (2004) Genetically Engineered Crops and Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Nine Years. BioTech InfoNet, Technical Paper No 7Google Scholar
  5. Chapman MA, Burke JM (2006) Letting the gene out of the bottle: the population genetics of genetically modified crops. New Phytol 170:429–443CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chevre A-M, Ammitzboell H, Breckling B, Dietz-Pfeilstetter A, Eber F, Fargue A, Gomez-Campo C, Jenczewski E, Joergensen R, Lavigne C, Meier MS, Den Nijs HCM, Pascher K, Seguis-Schwartz G, Sweet J, Steward Jr CN, Warwick S (2004) A review on interspecific gene flow from oilseed rape to wild relatives. In: Den Nijs HCM, Bartsch D, Sweet J (eds) Introgression from genetically modified plants into wild relatives. CAB International, Wallingford, UK, pp 235–251Google Scholar
  7. Crawley MJ, Brown SL, Hails RS, Kohn DD, Rees M (2001) Transgenic crops in natural habitats. Nat Biotechnol 409:682–683CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Devos Y, Reheul D, De Schrijver A, Cors F, Moens W (2004) Management of herbicide-tolerant oilseed rape in Europe: a case study on minimizing vertical gene flow. Environ Biosaf Res 3:135–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dierschke H (1994) Pflanzensoziologie: Grundlagen und Methoden. UTB, Ulmer Verlag, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  10. Ellstrand NC (2003) Current knowledge of gene flow in plants: implications for transgene flow. Philos T Roy Soc B 358:1163–1170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Garve E (1994) Atlas der gefährdeten Farn und Blühpflanzen in Niedersachsen und Bremen. Naturschutz und Landschaftpflege Niedersachsen 30:1–2Google Scholar
  12. Gressel J (1999) Tandem constructs: preventing the rise of superweeds. Trends Biotechnol 17:361–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Habekotté B (1993) Quantitative Analysis of pod formation, seed set and seed filling in winter oilseed rape (Brassica napus L) under field conditions. Field Crops Res 35:21–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Haeupler H, Loos GH, Sarazin A, Surkus B (2004) Geobotanische Untersuchungen zum Vergleich von gentechnisch verändertem und ‘konventionellem’Raps. Floristische Rundbriefe Beiheft 7:3–17, (+92 pp Appendices), BochumGoogle Scholar
  15. Hansen LB, Siegismund HR, Joergensen RB (2001) Introgression between oilseed rape (Brassica napus L) and its weedy relative B. rapa L in a natural population. Genet Resour Crop Ev 48:621–627CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Haygood R, Ives AR, Andow DA (2004) Population genetics of transgene containment. Ecol Lett 7:213–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. James C (2007) ISAAA Briefs No 37 Global status of commercialized transgenic crops: 2007. Executive Summary. International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications, http://www.isaaa.org
  18. Jenczweski E, Ronfort J, Chevre AM (2003) Crop-to-wild gene flow, introgression and possible fitness effects of transgenes. Environ Biosaf Res 2:9–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jørgensen T, Hauser TP, Jørgensen RB (2007) Adventitious presence of other varieties in oilseed rape (Brassica napus) from seed banks and certified seed. Seed Sci Res 17:115–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Landbo L, Andersen B, Joergensen RB (1996) Natural hybridisation between oilseed rape and a wild relative, hybrids among seeds from weedy Brassica campestris. Hereditas 125:89–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Legere A (2005) Risks and consequences of gene flow from herbicide-resistant crops: canola (Brassica napus L) as a case study. Pest Manag Sci 61:192–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lu B-R (2003) Trangene containment by molecular means—is it possible and cost effective. Environ Biosaf Res 2:3–8Google Scholar
  23. Marvier M, Van Acker RC (2005) Can crop transgenes be kept on a leash. Front Ecol Environ 3:99–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Menzel G (2006) Verbreitungsdynamik und Auskreuzungspotenzial von Brassica napus L. (Raps) im Großraum Bremen—Basiserhebung zum Monitoring von Umweltwirkungen transgener Kulturpflanzen. Dissertation University of BremenGoogle Scholar
  25. Murmann-Kirsten L (1991) Vitalitätsuntersuchungen in der Krautschicht von Wäldern. Veröffentlichungen für Naturschutz und Landschaftspflege. Baden-Württemberg Beiheft 64:87–96Google Scholar
  26. OECD Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (1977) Consensus Document on the Biology of Brassica napus L. (Oilseed rape). General Distribution. Series on Harmonization of Regulatory Oversight in Biotechnology No.7. OECD Environmental Health and Safety Publications, Paris, http://www.olis.oecd.org/olis/1997doc.nsf/LinkTo/ocde-gd(97)63
  27. Pascher K, Narendja F, Rau D (2006) Feral oilseed rape—investigation on its potential for hybridisation. Final Report to the commission of the Federal Ministry of Health and Women, AustriaGoogle Scholar
  28. Pertl M, Hauser TP, Damgaard C, Joergensen RB (2002) Male fitness of oilseed rape (Brassica napus), weedy B. rapa and their F1 hybrids when pollinating B. rapa seeds. Heredity 89:212–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pessel FD, Lecomte J, Emeriau V, Krouti M, Messan A, Gouyon P-H (2001) Persistence of oilseed rape in natural habitats: consequence for release of transgenic crops. Theor Appl Genet 102:841–846CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pilson D, Prendeville HR (2004) Ecological effects of transgenic crops and the escape of transgenes into wild populations. Ann Rev Ecol Evol System 35:149–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pivard S, Adamczyk K, Lecomte J, Lavigne C, Bouvier A, Deville A, Gouyon PH, Huet S (2005) Origin of oilseed rape feral populations in a farmland area. In: Messean A (ed) Proceedings of the second international Conference on Co-Existence between GM and Non-GM based agricultural supply chains. pp 79–82Google Scholar
  32. Schröder W, Schmidt G (2001) Defining ecoregions as framework for the assessment of ecological monitoring networks in Germany by means of GIS and classification and regression trees (CART). Gate to EHS 2001, pp 1–9Google Scholar
  33. Steward CN, Halfhill MD, Warwick SI (2003) Transgene introgression from genetically modified crops to their wild relatives. Nature Rev Gen 4:806–817CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Squire GR, Begg G, Askew A (2003) The potential for oilseed rape feral (volunteer) weeds to cause impurities in later oilseed rape crops. Final Report—DEFRA project RG0114Google Scholar
  35. Theenhaus A, Peichl L, Zeitler R, Botsch H-J (2005) Monitoring möglicher Auswirkungen von gentechnisch verändertem herbizidtoleranten Raps auf die einheimische Flora. Report for the German Federal Conservation Agency and the Federal Environmental Agency, FKZ (UFOPLAN) 200 89 412/01Google Scholar
  36. von der Lippe M, Kowarik I (2007) Long-distance dispersal of plants by vehicles as driver of plant invasions. Conserv Biol 21(4):986–996CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Watkinson AR, Freckleton RP, Robinson RA, Sutherland W-J (2000) Predictions of biodiversity response to genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops. Science 289:1554–1557CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hauke Reuter
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gertrud Menzel
    • 1
  • Hendrik Pehlke
    • 1
  • Broder Breckling
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of General and Theoretical Ecology, Centre for Environmental Research and Sustainable Technology (UFT)University of BremenBremenGermany
  2. 2.Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT)BremenGermany

Personalised recommendations