PloS one

An Empirical Assessment of Transgene Flow from a Bt Transgenic Poplar Plantation.

PMID 28085955


To assess the possible impact of transgenic poplar plantations on the ecosystem, we analyzed the frequency and distance of gene flow from a mature male transgenic Populus nigra plantation carrying the Bacillus thuringiensis toxin gene (Bt poplar) and the survival of Bt poplar seeds. The resultant Bt poplar seeds occurred at a frequency of ~0.15% at 0 m to ~0.02% at 500 m from the Bt poplar plantation. The germination of Bt poplar seeds diminished within three weeks in the field (germination rate from 68% to 0%) compared to 48% after three weeks of storage at 4°C. The survival rate of seedlings in the field was 0% without any treatment but increased to 1.7% under the addition of four treatments (cleaning and trimming, watering, weeding, and covering with plastic film to maintain moisture) after being seeded in the field for eight weeks. The results of this study indicate that gene flow originating from the Bt poplar plantation occurred at an extremely low level through pollen or seeds under natural conditions. This study provides first-hand field data on the extent of transgene flow in poplar plantations and offers guidance for the risk assessment of transgenic poplar plantations.