Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Gainesville, Florida » Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology » Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #297145

Title: Not all GMOs are crop plants: non-plant GMO applications in agriculture

item HOKANSON, KAREN - University Of Minnesota
item Handler, Alfred - Al
item SCHETELIG, MARC - Former ARS Employee
item ST.LEGER, RAYMOND - University Of Maryland
item DAWSON, WILLIAM - University Of Florida

Submitted to: Transgenic Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/4/2013
Publication Date: 11/17/2013
Citation: Hokanson, K.E., Handler, A.M., Schetelig, M.F., St.Leger, R.J., Dawson, W.O. 2013. Not all GMOs are crop plants: non-plant GMO applications in agriculture. Transgenic Research. Online: (DOI) 10.1007/s11248-013-9769-5.

Interpretive Summary: The creation of transgenic, or genetically modified (GMO) strains of economically important insects for the development of more effective biological control programs is a major goal of the USDA-ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, Gainesville, Florida. This article describes the development of new gene-transfer vector systems for use in tephritid fruit fly species, and potential use in many other economically important insects, that allows the efficient creation of highly effective GMO strains having enhanced stability and ecological safety. These vectors may be used separately or in combination to immobilize transgenes after their initial integration into a host genome for enhanced stability, and also allows their genomic insertion into specific target sites. Targeted integrations will ensure predictable transgene expression, and will avoid potential mutations that diminish fitness and vaiability of the host strain. In addition, enhanced stability is expected to ensure strain effectiveness by preventing transgene loss from the genome, and will improve ecological safety by preventing potential transgene inter-species movement into unintended host organisms.

Technical Abstract: In the time since the tools of modern biotechnology have become available, the most commonly applied and often discussed genetically modified organisms are genetically modified crop plants, although genetic engineering is also being used successfully in organisms other than plants, including bacteria, fungi, insects, and viruses. Many of these organisms, as with crop plants, are being engineered for applications in agriculture, to control plant insect pests or diseases. This paper reviews the genetically modified non-plant organisms that have been the subject of permit approvals for environmental release by the United States Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service since the US began regulating genetically modified organisms, as an indication of the breadth and progress of research in the area of non-plant genetically modified organisms. This review includes three examples of promising research on non-plant genetically modified organisms for application in agriculture: 1) genetic modification of insects for insect pest control using improved vector systems; 2) genetic modification of fungal pathogens of insects to control insect pests; and 3) genetic modification of virus for use as transient-expression vectors for disease control in plants.