QDo GMOs cross pollinate with non GMO selective breed crop hybrids ? How can we prevent transgenes from entering the gene pool of non GMO crops or wild varieties if GMOs can breed with non GMO varieties?

Do GMOs cross pollinate with non GMO selective breed crop hybrids ? How can we prevent transgenes from entering the gene pool of non GMO crops or wild varieties if GMOs can breed with non GMO varieties?

AExpert Answer

A species is defined by the ability to reproduce viable offspring, so any two plants within a species generally have the potential to cross pollinate. Like any good successful mating, it requires the union of male and female contributions at the right time, same place. So absolutely, GE crops have the potential to cross with non-GE crops of the same species—if they manage to get it on through time and space. 

 

So the rules that apply to dogs and teenagers also apply to plants—keep them apart and don’t put them in the same place when reproduction is most likely. The major gene flow problems of the past stopped when they cancelled Plant Prom.

 

The whole discussion of GE gene flow really applies only to corn, soy and canola. They are the major food crops where outcrossing might affect others with a cross-pollination event. Sugar beets aren’t grown to flowering typically, so not an issue there. Virus resistant Hawaiian papaya has cross pollinated with others, and even many feral papayas contain the virus resistance gene (Manshardt et al., 2012 Acta Hort 124).

 

Why does it matter? It only matters if adjacent farms are growing a crop for a non-GE market, so presence of a GE trait in that product could jeopardize its sale. There is no evidence that gene flow from natural events invokes litigation.

 

As mentioned earlier, other factors and practices can prevent gene flow from happening. In corn, pollen is heavy and usually drops from the tassel to the silks, so even in a stiff wind it does not travel far. With corn, a simple buffer zone is sufficient to limit cross pollination. Knowing your neighbor helps, and friendly communication about planting/flowering date can limit cross pollination, as plants that are not flowering in synchrony are unlikely to cross-pollinate.

 

And finally, the added traits in the GE plants could be passed on to the next generation. If the seeds were planted the plants could possibly (but not certainly) exhibit herbicide or insect resistance. The herbicide resistance would not matter unless the herbicide was applied. Insect resistance could help that plant survive better or provide a higher-quality output, but non-GE fields usually undergo regimens of chemical insect control, so the trait would be meaningless.

 

In general these traits are just a few of 40,000 in the plant, so a much bigger threat to adjacent plant’s genetic integrity doesn’t come from the GE trait, it comes from the 40,000 other genes. That’s why farmers buy dependable and tested seed with known genetic content at the beginning of every growing season. 

Posted on March 1, 2018
Addressing world hunger is exceedingly complex, as we currently produce enough food to feed the global population, but still 815 million people in the world were estimated as chronically undernourished in 2016. And while global population growth is slowing, world population is still expected to rise from 7.3 billion today to 9.7 billion by 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100. More needs to be done to address disparities in access to adequate nutrition (see FAO 2017), but it is clear that... Read More
Posted on May 4, 2018
There would be more public seed development if genome editing technologies like CRISPR are not regulated as GMOs. Single point mutations are an extension of the undirected mutation breeding that is commonly used now. Having genome editing regulated like conventional plant breeding would allow university plant breeders to use the technology to develop new varieties without the stigmatism of them being GMOs. As for would it allow for more start-up seed companies, this is more doubtful. It is... Read More
Posted on May 4, 2018
There would be more public seed development if genome editing technologies like CRISPR are not regulated as GMOs. Single point mutations are an extension of the undirected mutation breeding that is commonly used now. Having genome editing regulated like conventional plant breeding would allow university plant breeders to use the technology to develop new varieties without the stigmatism of them being GMOs. As for would it allow for more start-up seed companies, this is more doubtful. It is... Read More

Explore More Topics