Genetically engineered camelina

- endangers native, regional varieties…

Some of these genetically modified plants have the potential to spread into GMO-free agriculture as well as into the environment and throughout natural populations. In Europe, these are, e.g. rapeseed and camelina. This might jeopardise the preservation of the original species and regional varieties.

Many scientists in the US and the EU are interested in genetically engineering camelina (Camelina sativa). One focus is on the production of agro-fuel. Some plants in which 18 sites on the genome have been changed using CRISPR/Cas gene-scissors have already been released for cultivation. These plants show patterns of genetic changes and altered oil quality that would not be possible, or at least very difficult, to achieve with conventional breeding even though no additional genes are inserted.

Camelina is one of the oldest cultivated plants in Europe. The plants can survive and multiply in the environment as well as cross into natural populations. Experts are warning that risks can arise from the cultivation of the genetically modified plants due to their altered oil quality and potential uncontrolled spread: for example, the oleic acids formed in genetically modified plants can change the growth and reproductive rate of wild animals feeding on them. Problems could also arise if the oil seeds are accidentally introduced into food and feed. In 2018, genetically modified camelina was unconditionally released for cultivation in the United States. Evidently, US laws are not yet sufficient to prevent the spread of genetically engineered organisms: genetically engineered grass and rapeseed are already uncontrollably reproducing in some regions of the USA.

This example shows that a legally-required mandatory approval test is necessary to obtain precise information about the geneticallyengineered changes. Only then can the plants be identified if necessary and their uncontrolled spread prevented.

Otherwise, large numbers of organisms whose genetic makeup is not adapted to the ecosystems could escape into the environment. They might endanger the preservation of our livelihoods and also unintentionally end up in food production.

 

Publication year: 
2020