Effect of volunteers on maize gene flow

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Abstract

Regulatory approvals for deliberate release of GM maize events into the environment have lead to real situations of coexistence between GM and non-GM, with some fields being cultivated with GM and conventional varieties in successive seasons. Given the common presence of volunteer plants in maize fields in temperate areas, we investigated the real impact of GM volunteers on the yield of 12 non-GM agricultural fields. Volunteer density varied from residual to around 10% of plants in the field and was largely reduced using certain cultural practices. Plant vigour was low, they rarely had cobs and produced pollen that cross-fertilized neighbour plants only at low—but variable—levels. In the worst-case scenario, the estimated content of GMO was 0.16%. The influence of GM volunteers was not enough to reach the 0.9% adventitious GM threshold but it could potentially contribute to adventitious GM levels, especially at high initial densities (i.e. above 1,000 volunteers/ha).

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