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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: OSEC BIOTECH TRANSFER

Location: Forage Seed and Cereal Research

2012 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
The primary objective will be to fill information gaps regarding pollen flow dynamics. That new information will directly inform management practices to help ensure hay and seed production for both genetically engineered (GE) sensitive and non-sensitive markets continue to prosper in the United States.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Feral alfalfa populations will be survyed for Roundup-Ready alfalfa (RRA) transgene. Feral alfalfa plants will be systematically sampled in an 8 km radius around six RRA fields. Leaf tissue will be tested for the presence of the RRA transgene using QuickStix™ tests at the collection site. Seed will be harvested from previously tested feral plants and tested for transgene presence. All positive plants will be confirmed for the RRA transgene using event specific Ploymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) primers. At each collection site and RRA source field, information on variables influencing pollen-mediated transmission will be collected including topography, prevailing wind, farmer practices/history, surrounding crops/vegetation, and feral plant density. Spatial maps of RRA gene flow will be generated. Results from our study of transgene transmission from RRA hay and seed fields to feral alfalfa will help us better understand the extent of insect-mediated pollen flow across different environments, and the role feral alfalfa plays in transgene flow.


3.Progress Report:

The Alfalfa Industry, National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance and the USDA have been working to facilitate coexistence of farmers growing genetically engineered (GE) Roundup®-Ready alfalfa (RRA) and those growing alfalfa hay/seed for markets sensitive to the presence of transgenes. In 2011, the USDA supported a baseline assessment of the RRA transgene in feral roadside alfalfa. In July, August and September of 2011, and May 2012, leaf tissue of feral alfalfa plants from randomly assigned road side sites in Fresno County California, Walla Walla County Oregon, and Canyon County Idaho, was collected and tested for the presence of the RRA transgene using RUR test strips. Plants testing positive will be confirmed by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) using a reliable high throughput DNA isolation method and PCR protocols/primers developed for this purpose. Preliminary results confirm the presence of transgenes in feral alfalfa populations four years after the 2007 injunction against planting RRA, which suggests that the RRA transgene can persist in the environment. Further analysis of data collected at each site will be performed to determine if topography, wind, agricultural, ecological, and population factors impact the presence of the RRA transgene in feral populations.


Last Modified: 9/23/2014
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