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[SANET-MG] field testing of transgenic mustard (Brassica juncea)

October 20, 2006

Prof. Joe Cummins

Concerning the field testing of transgenic mustard (Brassica juncea)

Transgenic mustard has begun to be tested but , here to fore, the crop has not been approved for commercial release. The transgenes being tested include foremost herbicide tolerance, followed by male fertility, oil composition and pharmaceutical proteins.

Field test releases of transgenic Brassica juncea were done in the United States during 2003, 2004 and 2005. The 2005 test was undertaken by Bayer Crop Science, who released male sterility based on barnase. The 2004 and 2005 tests were done by the United States Department of Agriculture who released transgenes specifying industrial enzymes and transgens to implement bioremediation.


Field test releases of transgenic Brassica juncea were done in the European Union during 2000 and 2001. The trials were undertaken by Aventis in Belgium. The transgenes tested were all glufosinate herbicide tolerance and barnase based male sterility. http://biotech.jrc.it/deliberate/doc/snifs.pdf

In Canada 130 field test releases of transgenic Brassica juncea have been provided since 1995. The main transgene was for herbicide tolerance, the barnase based male sterility system was next in popularity, with a few tests of abiotic stress or production of pharmaceuticals. The main clients testing transgenic Brassica juncea in Canada were Bayer Crop Sciences, Pioneer Hybrid and the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool (a cooperative established to control the marketing of wheat).


Since Brassica juncea is open pollinating it is certain that the transgenes have begun to pollute the environment in Saskatchewan and Alberta provinces where the transgenic mustard was released for field testing.. Transgenic canola (Brassica napus and Brassica rapa) is grown extensively grown in those two provinces and it has been found to have polluted essentially all of the canola seed stock in those provinces. Canada has done little to control escape of transgenes from field test releases including transgenes for highly toxic pharmaceuticals along with the transgene releases from commercial crops. Canada has been feckless in the regulation and management of field test releases and the management of transgenic crops. This carelessness is evident in the transgenic pollution of the food crops

The barnase male sterility system is a particular concern because of the use of a potent toxin to eliminate pollen production in the transgenic crop. In spite of the danger of transgen pollution Canola (Brassica napus) transgenic for barnase control of male fertility was approved for commercial production in food and feed as early as 1996. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/not_reg.html

Canada approved the male sterile for consumption in food and feed in 1997. http://www.agbios.com/dbase.php

Australia approved the male sterile canola for use in food and feed in 2002 and for production in that country in 2003 http://www.agbios.com/dbase.php

The European Union approved use of the transgenic make sterile canola in EU in 2005 but production in the field has not yet been approved. http://www.agbios.com/dbase.php

It has been suggested that Brassica juncea (mustard) and canola (Brassica napus and Brassica rapa) should be considered the same with regards to regulation. That is clearly an erroneous suggestion because the species are different as is clear by just looking at the plants. Those countries contemplating imitating approvals of the United States, Canada and EU should take a careful second look because there is new information that the barnase destruction of the male sex organs may have a holistic impact on (on the entire plant) by effecting mobile RNAi molecules that are transported through the plant’s phloem. These novel toxins have just begun to be recognized. It is wise to withhold approval until adequate research has been done. It is no wonder that the corporations object to the labeling of transgenic crops so that toxic impacts will not be recognized right away.


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