Tall Stacks of Transgenes and Waffling Gene Flow
The first generation of transgenic plants had only one or two transgenes inserted, but future products will have several transgenes stacked together in single plants. The best way to assess risks remains unclear. Currently, the USDA looks at individual transgenic events (i.e., unique transgene placement within the plant genome) and this situation might change as trait combinations become more prevalent. However, regulations might be too hyperfocused on the transgenes themselves when it is the traits that really matter. Even in transgenic stacking scenarios, perhaps 10 new transgenes will be added to a genomic background of 30,000 genes. Genomes are quite resilient. Studies have shown that adding fitness-related transgenes that necessarily carry with them hitchhiking crop genes during repeated hybridizations appear to dilute weedy genomes, resulting in transgenic weeds that are not as competitive as non-transgenic weeds.
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