Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

July 11, 2000

Field trials for transgenic plants underway at Guelph

Transgenic alfalfa, maize, white clover, soybeans, tobacco, perennial ryegrass and creeping bentgrass will be field tested this summer at University of Guelph research stations.

The confined (conducted under conditions that restrict the plant materials to a specific site) trials will gauge the performance of 37 different genes for enhanced traits such as winter stress resistance, forage quality and growth efficiency, in these species. One of the trials will gauge the performance of a gene for enhancing white mold resistance to soybeans.

Plants involved in these trials have not yet been approved for commercial use. Field trials are part of the assessment process required for approval of transgenic plant species. Gauging their performance under field conditions is intended to further minimize risks that might be associated with these plants in a field environment.

The trials are being conducted to identify plants with improved performance attributes to use in breeding, says Prof. Steve Bowley, Department of Plant Agriculture. This is the 11th year for transgenic plant trials in some areas.

Transgenic plants are those whose genetic makeup has been altered; specifically, a gene from another plant or organism has been inserted into their DNA structure. Bowley says gene transfer provides many new opportunities to improve plants' growth rate, resistance to disease or toxic agents, and other properties that contribute to crop productivity.

Transgenic plant field trials are conducted under authorization and using protocols approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The protocols are designed to minimize risks that might be associated with evaluation of transgenic plants in a field environment. All plant materials from the confined field trials are prevented from flowering, and all plant herbage is sterilized, incinerated, or buried to prevent the materials from entering the food chain.

University of Guelph researchers are also conducting trials using transgenic plants that have been approved for commercial use. Crops being studied in these trials include corn, sugar beets, soybeans, and canola.

For media information, call Prof. Clarence Swanton, chair of the Department of Plant Agriculture, at Ext. 3386 or Communications and Public Affairs at Ext. 7962 or 3338.

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