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Crop Biotech Update

Monitoring Pleiotropic Effects of GM Wheat: Flavonoid Profiling

September 28, 2007

Concerns have been expressed that genetically modified organisms show pleiotropic (multiple and unintended) and unpredictable effects. A transgene or its insertion site might influence the regulation of other endogenous genes, which may lead to accumulation of secondary metabolites (by-products) which may impact human diet and  the environment.

Scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, estimated the effects of introducing an insect resistance gene in the endogenous gene expression of wheat by comparing its flavonoid levels, a prominent group of secondary metabolites, to varieties obtained by conventional breeding. Results showed that wheat varieties produced by traditional breeding strategies exhibit significant differences in their flavonoid levels. Compared to GM wheat, varieties produced by conventional breeding have a direct impact on the biological composition of flavonoids, and thus possibly on the environment. Similar results have been obtained in other studies determining possible pleiotropic effects of GM tomato, potato and the glyphosate tolerant wheat MON 71800.

Read the abstract at The full paper published by the journal Plant Molecular Biology is available to subscribers at