Containing the Risks of Escape of GM Rapeseed into the Environment

TWN Info Service on Biosafety
17 May 2022
Third World Network

Dear Friends and Colleagues

Containing the Risks of Escape of GM Rapeseed into the Environment

Cases of the unintentional release of GM feral rapeseed/canola (Brassica napus L.), are very common, especially in non-GM fields and road verges. Since rapeseed forms weedy, feral populations and has a proven ability to hybridize with its close relatives, this poses many risks to agriculture and the environment.

The containment of the spread of rapeseed seeds will always be challenging. This review provides recommendations for the management of feral GM and non-GM rapeseed in agricultural fields and along roads. During the transport of grains with trucks, there is a higher possibility of spilling rapeseed due to the wind flow, so covering the grains and filling the truck with less seeds could reduce seed spillage. Moreover, reducing the distance between the fields and the processing places can minimize the area of spillage.

Other recommended measures include the use of sealed bags, enhanced testing of grain cargo, the management of runoff weeds around transport routes, the implementation of a monitoring program for imported herbicide-resistant crops, and the need for extensive cooperation in both research and practice for interdisciplinary exchange and the efficient management of wild crops along transport routes.

Companies, government organizations, and port and road authorities should strengthen environmental monitoring and management, as well as put in place measures to prevent the spill, spread, and persistence of GM rapeseed near port regions. The risk of long-distance dispersion events should also be included in models projecting gene dispersal. There is a need for harmonization to establish successful access standards and international guidelines for the transport of crops (especially rapeseed seeds).

In addition, policies should be put in place to prevent the contamination of GM crops. The review proposes that numerous stakeholders, such as processors, transporters, and suppliers, be consulted, and warns that adopting GM crops necessitates a thorough examination of the risks and obligations associated with this new technology.


With best wishes,
Third World Network


Sohn, S. I., Pandian, S., Oh, Y. J., Kang, H. J., Ryu, T. H., Cho, W. S., … & Shin, K. S.
Biology, 10(12), 1264
3 Dec 2021

Simple Summary

With the advent of genetic engineering technology, the development and cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops has increased. They were mainly developed for high yielding, herbicide resistance, and tolerance against different biotic and abiotic stresses. Rapeseed, also known as canola, was developed mainly for herbicide resistance and to increase the production of canola oil. Since it forms weedy, feral populations and has a proven ability to hybridize with its close relatives, it is important to manage the GM crops’ cultivation and spread, especially the rapeseed. Several studies have reported that the spread of GM rapeseed in non-GM fields and road verges is possible due to transport and agronomic practices, and it may become a weed. Hence, in this review, we summarized the cases of unintentional spread of feral GM rapeseed in the fields and road verges. In addition, we made recommendations for the effective management of feral GM and non-GM rapeseed in agricultural fields and along roads.


Globally, the cultivation area of genetically modified (GM) crops is increasing dramatically. Despite their well-known benefits, they may also pose many risks to agriculture and the environment. Among the various GM crops, GM rapeseed (Brassica napus L.) is widely cultivated, mainly for oil production. At the same time, B. napus possesses a number of characteristics, including the ability to form feral populations and act as small-seeded weeds, and has a high potential for hybridization with other species. In this review, we provide an overview of the commercialization, approval status, and cultivation of GM rapeseed, as well as the status of the feral rapeseed populations. In addition, we highlight the case studies on the unintentional environmental release of GM rapeseed during transportation in several countries. Previous studies suggest that the main reason for the unintentional release is seed spillage during transport/importing of rapeseed in both GM rapeseed-cultivating and -non-cultivating countries. Despite the fact that incidents of unintentional release have been recorded often, there have been no reports of serious detrimental consequences. However, since rapeseed has a high potential for hybridization, the possibilities of gene flow within the genus, especially with B. rapa, are relatively significant, and considering their weedy properties, effective management methods are needed. Hence, we recommend that specific programs be used for the effective monitoring of environmental releases of GM rapeseed as well as management to avoid environmental and agricultural perturbations.

articles post