Biotech Updates

Horizontal Gene Transfer from Biotech Rapeseed to Gut Bacteria of Bees Unlikely

February 9, 2007

Bacteria from the gut of three species of bees that pollinated biotech rapeseed (Brassica napus) were analyzed to test if the transgene conferring glufosinate tolerance in the crop has transferred to the gut bacteria. The results of the study by researchers Kathrin Mohr and Christoph Tebbein in Germany have supported other previous assertions - that such process is unlikely.

A total of 96 gut bacterial strains were isolated from the bee species. Of the isolates, 40 percent were found resistant to 1 mM glufosinate, and 11 percent to 10 mM glufosinate. These resistant strains however, were found to have no recombinant pat-gene, the gene conferring herbicide tolerance, from the rapeseed. The bacteria were determined to be naturally resistant to glufosinate.

Mohr and Tebbein concluded that “the broad occurrence of glufosinate-resistant bacteria from different phylogenetic groups suggests that rare events of horizontal gene transfer will not add significantly to natural bacterial glufosinate resistance.”

The paper published by the journal Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology can be accessed by subscribers at