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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Ecology and Reproductive Biology of Potato: the Potential for and the Environmental Implications of Gene Spread

Author
item Hanneman Jr, Robert

Submitted to: Environmental Concerns with Transgenic Plants in Latin America Potato as A
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: December 18, 1995
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Transgenic plants, that is plants into which foreign genes have been introduced such as those from bacteria, fish or other plants, are just beginning to be used in agricultural production. There is concern that if these plants are grown in areas where their native wild relatives grow that the foreign genes may transfer to the native populations via natural hybridization and thus contaminate the native gene pool. This paper is concerned with addressing the possibility of such gene transfer occurring in potato and with means to assess the risk. It is concluded that transgenics will be grown in these areas and therefore that the countries will need to decide what policies, if any, they may wish to establish with regard to the protection of their native gene pools. This is an important issue, particularly for those geographic regions which contain the centers of diversity for the crop.

Technical Abstract: The use of transgenic plants in commercial agriculture is a reality. The traits given most interest are insect, viral and, herbicide resistance, fruit firmness, protein or oil composition and altered flower color. Field testing of transgenics has intensified worldwide, with potato being the most frequently tested crop. The greatest concern over transgenics is the potential for the transgene to escape into natural populations and contribute to weediness or itself become a new weed. In potato, with its over 200 species, existing as a polyploid series from diploids to hexaploids, the chance for introgression of transgenes is great. In fact, it seems a certainty that it will occur. So, the question is not will it occur, but to decide what if any containment measures should be used. Containment decisions depend on the species and the pollinators present to promote gene flow in the proposed areas of introduction. It is essential to thoroughly consider the role of 2n gametes, Endosperm Balance Number, and stylar barriers to interspecific gene transfer. Physical barriers such as distance and trap crops can be used, as can male sterility as a genetic barrier.

Last Modified: 10/25/2014
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