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To estimate the likelihood of transfer of kanamycin-resistance gene (nptII) from commercially available genetically modified (GM) plants.Acinetobacter sp. BD413 carrying a plasmid containing an inactivated nptII gene was treated with DNA derived from GM potato and GM papaya. Kanamycin-resistant transformants were obtained at a frequency of 10–30 μg−1 DNA. Calculation of the results suggested that 6–9 × 104 molecules of genomic DNA from GM plants were needed to obtain one transformant. However, such transformation events were not detectable in the absence of the plasmid in the host strain.Acinetobacter sp. BD413 was transformed with DNA derived from GM potato and GM papaya, in the presence of an inactivated nptII gene on a plasmid. However, the frequency of such events in the natural environment on wild-type strains, while evidently low, remains unknown.Our results may help to evaluate potential risks associated with the use of antibiotic-resistance determinants as genetic markers in GM plants. Complete risk assessment must consider factors other than transformation frequency alone, including the natural background of antibiotic resistance present in bacterial populations, and the spectrum and clinical use of the antimicrobial agents in question.