Journal Article

Glyphosate drift promotes changes in fitness and transgene gene flow in canola (<i>Brassica napus</i>) and hybrids

Jason P. Londo, Nonnatus S. Bautista, Cynthia L. Sagers, E. Henry Lee and Lidia S. Watrud

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 106, issue 6, pages 957-965
Published in print December 2010 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online September 2010 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Glyphosate drift promotes changes in fitness and transgene gene flow in canola (Brassica napus) and hybrids

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

With the advent of transgenic crops, genetically modified, herbicide-resistant Brassica napus has become a model system for examining the risks and potential ecological consequences of escape of transgenes from cultivation into wild compatible species. Escaped transgenic feral B. napus and hybrids with compatible weedy species have been identified outside of agriculture and without the apparent selection for herbicide resistance. However, herbicide (glyphosate) exposure can extend beyond crop field boundaries, and a drift-level of herbicide could function as a selective agent contributing to increased persistence of transgenes in the environment.


The effects of a drift level (0·1 × the field application rate) of glyphosate herbicide and varied levels of plant competition were examined on plant fitness-associated traits and gene flow in a simulated field plot, common garden experiment. Plants included transgenic, glyphosate-resistant B. napus, its weedy ancestor B. rapa, and hybrid and advanced generations derived from them.

Key Results

The results of this experiment demonstrate reductions in reproductive fitness for non-transgenic genotypes and a contrasting increase in plant fitness for transgenic genotypes as a result of glyphosate-drift treatments. Results also suggest that a drift level of glyphosate spray may influence the movement of transgenes among transgenic crops and weeds and alter the processes of hybridization and introgression in non-agronomic habitats by impacting flowering phenology and pollen availability within the community.


The results of this study demonstrate the potential for persistence of glyphosate resistance transgenes in weedy plant communities due to the effect of glyphosate spray drift on plant fitness. Additionally, glyphosate drift has the potential to change the gene-flow dynamics between compatible transgenic crops and weeds, simultaneously reducing direct introgression into weedy species while contributing to an increase in the transgenic seed bank.

Keywords: Gene flow; canola; herbicide drift; transgene escape; plant ecology; mesocosms; Brassica napus; Brassica rapa

Journal Article.  6873 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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