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Are concerns about feral genetically modified herbicide tolerant oilseed resulting from seed import spills scientifically justified?

By Yann Devos, Rosemary S. Hails, Antoine Messéan, Joe N. Perry and Geoffrey R. Squire


One of the concerns surrounding the import (for food and feed uses or processing) of\ud genetically modified herbicide tolerant oilseed rape (GMHT OSR) is that, through seed spillage,\ud the herbicide tolerance (HT) trait will escape into agricultural or semi-natural habitats, causing\ud environmental or economic problems. Whether the concerns posed by feral GMHT OSR from\ud seed import spills are scientifically justified is debatable. While OSR has characteristics such as\ud secondary dormancy and small seed size that enable it to persist and be redistributed in the\ud landscape, the presence of ferals is not in itself an environmental or economic problem.\ud Crucially, feral OSR has not become invasive outside cultivated and ruderal habitats, and HT\ud traits are not likely to result in increased invasiveness. Feral GMHT OSR has the potential to\ud introduce HT traits to volunteer weeds in agricultural fields, but would only be amplified if the\ud herbicides to which HT volunteers are tolerant were used routinely in the field. This worst-case\ud scenario is most unlikely, as seed import spills are mostly confined to port areas. Economic\ud concerns revolve around the potential for feral GMHT OSR to contribute to GM admixtures in\ud non-GM crops. Since feral plants derived from cultivation (as distinct from import) occur at too\ud low a frequency to affect the coexistence tolerance threshold of 0.9% in the EU, it can be\ud concluded that feral GMHT plants resulting from seed import spills will have little relevance as a\ud potential source of pollen or seed for GM admixture. This paper concludes that feral OSR in\ud Europe should not be routinely managed, and certainly not in semi-natural habitats, as the\ud benefits of such action would not outweigh the negative effects of management

Topics: Ecology and Environment
Publisher: International Organization for Biological and Integrated Control of Noxious Animals and Plants, West Palearctic Regional Section (IOBC/WPRS)
Year: 2012
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