Can we stop transgenes from taking a walk on the wild side?

Katrina M. Dlugosch, Jeannette Whitton

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Whether the potential costs associated with broad-scale use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) outweigh possible benefits is highly contentious, including within the scientific community. Even among those generally in favour of commercialization of GM crops, there is nonetheless broad recognition that transgene escape into the wild should be minimized. But is it possible to achieve containment of engineered genetic elements in the context of large scale agricultural production? In a previous study, Warwick et al. (2003) documented transgene escape via gene flow from herbicide resistant (HR) canola (Brassica napus) into neighbouring weedy B. rapa populations (Fig. 1) in two agricultural fields in Quebec, Canada. In a follow-up study in this issue of Molecular Ecology, Warwick et al. (2008) show that the transgene has persisted and spread within the weedy population in the absence of selection for herbicide resistance. Certainly a trait like herbicide resistance is expected to spread when selected through the use of the herbicide, despite potentially negative epistatic effects on fitness. However, Warwick et al.'s findings suggest that direct selection favouring the transgene is not required for its persistence. So is there any hope of preventing transgene escape into the wild?

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1167-1169
Number of pages3
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Bo rapa
  • Brassica napus
  • Gene flow
  • Hybridization
  • Transgene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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