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Risk Assessment for Transgenic Sorghum in Africa: Crop-to-Crop Gene Flow in Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench


This article in CS

  1. Vol. 46 No. 2, p. 790-798
    Received: June 10, 2005

    * Corresponding author(s): ms@irf.univie.ac.at
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  1. Markus Schmidt *a and
  2. Gurling Bothmab
  1. a Univ. of Vienna, Institute of Risk Research, Tuerkenschanzstr. 17/8, 1180 Vienna, Austria
    b Agricultural Research Council– Roodeplaat, Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Institute, Biotechnology Division, Private Bag X293, Pretoria, 0001, Gauteng, South Africa


A crop-to-crop gene flow risk assessment study was conducted with Sorghum bicolor subsp. bicolor to estimate the impact of transgenic sorghum in (South) Africa. The trial was conducted with a central sorghum field (30 × 30 m) with male fertile donor plants that was surrounded by eight arms planted with male sterile recipient plants at a distance of 13 to 158 m from the central field. Gene flow was relatively high within the first 40 m and relatively low beyond that distance, but gene flow was detected even at the greatest distance investigated (158 m). The average hybridization or outcrossing rate for male sterile plants was 2.54% at 13 m, below 1% at a distance of 26 m or greater, and eventually dropping to 0.06% at 158 m. Outcrossing rates are expected to be even lower for male fertile plants, which were not investigated in this study. Mathematical models were used to estimate the maximum gene flow distance that is expected to be between approximately 200 and 700 m. These values are in line with observational data from sorghum plant breeders, who use an isolation distance of 100 m to achieve less than 1% genetic pollution. On the basis of the presence of fully fertile crop wild relatives and the weedy relative johnsongrass [S. halepense (L.) Pers.], which may form hybrids with crop sorghum, and on the fact that gene flow takes place, there is strong evidence that introgression of genetically modified- (GM)-sorghum into crops and crop wild relatives will take place once GM-sorghum is deployed.

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