A new report, Transgene Escape: Global atlas of uncontrolled spread of genetically engineered plants, was released in November 2013 by Testbiotech (Institute for Independent Impact Assessment in Biotechnology). This comprehensive resource provides a general overview of the spread of genetically engineered (GE) plants while outlining the properties of transgenic plants that impact their dispersal and persistence in the environment.
Case studies on creeping bentgrass, cotton, corn, canola, black poplar, and rice illuminate the stark reality of past, present, and future contamination. “In some instances from North and Middle America, we can assume that transgenes from species such as bentgrass, oilseed rape and cotton have already escaped permanently into the environment or wild populations. In other cases such as maize (corn), rice and poplar there is a high likelihood that this will happen in the near future.”
Commercial cultivation and field trials of GE crops are cited as just two of the potential sources for transgene escape. Importing of raw materials and transport of grain crops are other avenues.
As a whole, this document lends additional context to the conversation of transgenic contamination on a global scale. It also makes some recommendations to address the problem.
Among them: “Most importantly, measures should be put in place immediately to stop any further uncontrolled spread of genetically engineered plants into the environment as far as possible. Comprehensive regulation should be established to strengthen the precautionary principle and the release of genetically engineered organisms should not be allowed if they cannot be retrieved from the environment.”