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Assessment & Impacts » Ecological

Title: Extensive Phenotypic Differences Between GE and Non-GE Cultivated Plants
Publication date: June 29, 2018
Posting date: June 29, 2018

THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE

 

Dear Friends and Colleagues

Extensive Phenotypic Differences Between GE and Non-GE Cultivated Plants

A recent article (Item 1) comments on a meta-analysis (Item 2) that profiled the phenotypic consequences of plant breeding and genetic engineering (GE), and compared modified cultivars with wild relatives in five crops of global economic and cultural importance: rice, maize, canola, sunflower, and pumpkin. The meta-analysis studied 120 scientific publications in the period 1990–2017.

The phenotype of a crop is defined by a set of characteristics expressed by the crop’s genetic code. In theory, genetically engineered (GE) plants will show phenotypic changes only linked to the traits that scientists added to the genetically modified organism (GMO). However, genetics are complicated and unintended consequences often occur.

The meta-analysis did find significant and unintended phenotypic effects. Of the five crops analyzed in the study, maize, pumpkin and rice showed the most variation between GMO and non-GMO cultivars. These three crops demonstrated wide variation for traits related to days to flowering, number of seeds/fruit, plant height, and pollen viability. In fact, the researchers report that for non-GMO and GMO cultivars of maize, pumpkin and rice, “almost all analyzed traits differ statistically".

The study concluded that (1) genetic modification (either by selective breeding or GE) can be traced phenotypically when comparing wild relatives with their domesticated relatives, and (2) the existence and the magnitude of the phenotypic differences between a domesticated GE crop  and a domesticated non-GE variety of the same crop suggest consequences of genetic modification beyond the target trait(s).

The researchers warn that given that phenotypic variation is directly exposed to natural selection, even small differences that are not statistically significant can have evolutionary consequences for populations and species. They comment that it is worth reflecting on the unintended effects that some human interventions can have that might reduce our options to adapt in the future, and that such strategies must include a revision of the regulations of crop technologies, given the major consequences that they can have on global food security.

 

With best wishes,

Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
10400 Penang
Malaysia
Email: twn@twnetwork.org
Websites: http://www.twn.my/and http://www.biosafety-info.net/
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____________________________________________________________________________

Item 1

NEW META-ANALYSIS: EXTENSIVE PHENOTYPIC DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GMO AND NON-GMO IN CULTIVATED PLANTS

Hygeia Analytics
30 May 2018
https://hygeia-analytics.com/2018/05/30/new-meta-analysis-extensive-phenotypic-differences-between-gmo-and-non-gmo-in-cultivated-plants/

The myth of “substantial equivalence” between GMOs and non-GE crops (called “isolines”) takes yet another hard science hit.

A team of researchers in Mexico City has published their meta-analysisof genetic data on rice, canola, maize, sunflower, and pumpkin.  They looked at wild, GMO, and non-GMO cultivated varieties of these five crops, analyzing phenotypic change.

The phenotype of a crop is defined by a set of characteristics expressed by the crop’s genetic code (DNA).  In theory, genetically engineered plants will show phenotypic changes only linked to the targeted traits scientists added to the GMO and hope to express.  For example, a corn plant engineered to express the Bt toxin should not be different from normal corn in other ways, as has been reported hereon Hygeia.

However, genetics are complicated and unintended consequences often occur. Of the five crops analyzed in this study, maize, pumpkin and rice showed the most variation between GMO and non-GMO cultivars.  These three crops demonstrated wide variation for traits related to days to flowering, number of seeds/fruit, plant height, and pollen viability.  In fact, the researchers report that for non-GMO and GMO cultivars of maize, pumpkin and rice, “almost all analyzed traits differ statistically.”

This latest report of “unintended consequences” from the genetic engineering process again raises questions about the official USDA policy claiming that other that GMOs are “substantial equivalent” or  “functionally equivalent” to the original, non-GE isoline.


Item 2

DOMESTICATED, GENETICALLY ENGINEERED, AND WILD PLANT RELATIVES EXHIBIT UNINTENDED PHENOTYPIC DIFFERENCES: A COMPARATIVE META-ANALYSIS PROFILING RICE, CANOLA, MAIZE, SUNFLOWER, AND PUMPKIN

Alejandra Hernández-Terán, Ana Wegier, Mariana Benítez, Rafael Lira, and Anna E. Esclaante
Front. Plant Sci., 05 December 2017 |
https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2017.02030
5 Dec 2017
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2017.02030/full#B24

Abstract

Agronomic management of plants is a powerful evolutionary force acting on their populations. The management of cultivated plants is carried out by the traditional process of human selection or plant breeding and, more recently, by the technologies used in genetic engineering (GE). Even though crop modification through GE is aimed at specific traits, it is possible that other non-target traits can be affected by genetic modification due to the complex regulatory processes of plant metabolism and development. In this study, we conducted a meta-analysis profiling the phenotypic consequences of plant breeding and GE, and compared modified cultivars with wild relatives in five crops of global economic and cultural importance: rice, maize, canola, sunflower, and pumpkin. For these five species, we analyzed the literature with documentation of phenotypic traits that are potentially related to fitness for the same species in comparable conditions. The information was analyzed to evaluate whether the different processes of modification had influenced the phenotype in such a way as to cause statistical differences in the state of specific phenotypic traits or grouping of the organisms depending on their genetic origin [wild, domesticated with genetic engineering (domGE), and domesticated without genetic engineering (domNGE)]. In addition, we tested the hypothesis that, given that transgenic plants are a construct designed to impact, in many cases, a single trait of the plant (e.g., lepidopteran resistance), the phenotypic differences between domGE and domNGE would be either less (or inexistent) than between the wild and domesticated relatives (either domGE or domNGE). We conclude that (1) genetic modification (either by selective breeding or GE) can be traced phenotypically when comparing wild relatives with their domesticated relatives (domGE and domNGE) and (2) the existence and the magnitude of the phenotypic differences between domGE and domNGE of the same crop suggest consequences of genetic modification beyond the target trait(s).


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