Special Issue "Potential Unintended Effects of Genetic Technologies in Plants"

A special issue of Plants (ISSN 2223-7747). This special issue belongs to the section "Plant Molecular Biology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2022) | Viewed by 5678

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Sarah Z. Agapito-Tenfen
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
GenØk—Centre for Biosafety, Siva innovasjonssenter Postboks 6418, 9294 Tromsø, Norway
Interests: gene-editing; plant physiology; systems biology; proteomics; genomics; gene regulation; metabolic pathways
Prof. Dr. Zhengqiang Ma
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Crop Genetics and Breeding Department, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210095, China
Interests: plant genetics and functional genomics; plant biotechnology; plant breeding; bioinformatics
Dr. Michael Eckerstorfer
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Landnutzung & Biologische Sicherheit, Environment Agency Austria, Spittelauer Lände 5, 1090 Vienna, Austria
Interests: agricultural biotechnology; genome editing; genetic modification; biosafety; risk assessment; emerging technologies; monitoring; GMO detection

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Modifying the genetics of what we eat and feed has been present throughout humankind history. Domesticating plant species, which is the process whereby wild plants have been evolved into crop plants through artificial selection, has been crucial to the development of agriculture. When this selection process became more conscientious and intentional, it evolved into ‘crop breeding’ – the science of changing the traits of plants in order to produce desired characteristics. Until then, genetic modification was indirect, through the selection of the phenotype. Recombinant DNA, in which chimeric DNA molecules are constructed in vitro and then propagated in a host cell or organism, arrived; genetic modification became direct and beyond sexual barriers. Transgenesis then turned into a reality in crop breeding and it now corresponds to 95% adoption area for some of the world’s major agricultural countries (i.e., USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and India. Gene-editing was the next technological step in line, and it advances from classical genetic engineering due to its ability to (1) modify target genes in vivo, and not only in vitro, followed by re-introduction; (2) increase the efficiency of introducing the intended modification at an intended place; and (3) increase the range of organisms in which the first two possibilities can be achieved. Nonetheless, genetic modification has triggered legitimate risk assessment procedures due to their lack of ‘history of safe use’ as provided in several domestic and international regulations.

In that context, new analytical methods for the molecular characterization of next generation GMOs will have to consider new aspects of genetic modification. One aspect is related to the spectrum of changes at the intended site (i.e., the nucleotide changes at target sequence). A second aspect refers to the spectrum of sites that have been changed. Thus, unintended effects might arise from both target site and off- target sites. In addition, detecting unintended off-target changes can be more challenging than detecting changes at target sites because the number and position of nucleotide changes are unknown. A third aspect is not dependent on the nucleic acid sequence modified, but the timeframe (e.g., temporary or permanent) and the scale of the modification (e.g., ecosystems level).

Therefore, for this Special Issue we encourage submissions of articles (original research papers, perspectives, hypotheses, opinions, reviews, modeling approaches, and methods) that focus on  transgene regulation and the impact of genetic modification in plant biochemistry pathways, physiology, genes, proteins, metabolites, nutrition, and environment at all levels comprising transcriptome, proteome, metabolome and epigenome studies, plant microbiomes, etc., as well as the analysis of the impact of genetic modifications at larger scales, in the environment and in food production context.

Dr. Sarah Agapito-Tenfen
Prof. Zhengqiang Ma
Dr. Michael Eckerstorfer
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Plants is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Genetically modified organisms
  • Gene-editing
  • Transgenesis
  • Systems biology
  • Metabolic pathways, Environmental genetic engineering
  • Genetic disruption

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

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Article
Transgene Flow: Challenges to the On-Farm Conservation of Maize Landraces in the Brazilian Semi-Arid Region
Plants 2022, 11(5), 603; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11050603 - 23 Feb 2022
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Abstract
Brazil is one of the largest global producers of genetically modified crops and a center of origin and diversification of relevant species for agriculture and food. Transgenic monocultures occupy around 50 million hectares, whereas smallholder farmers, indigenous people, and traditional communities are responsible [...] Read more.
Brazil is one of the largest global producers of genetically modified crops and a center of origin and diversification of relevant species for agriculture and food. Transgenic monocultures occupy around 50 million hectares, whereas smallholder farmers, indigenous people, and traditional communities are responsible for in-situ/on-Farm conservation of local genetic resources. Based on 15 years of expertise in regulating GMOs and in cross-institutional agrobiodiversity conservation projects, this article discusses the challenges regarding the coexistence of these two agricultural models based on transgene flow detection in maize landraces. As part of a broad and unique participatory transgene-flow-monitoring process, 1098 samples of maize landraces were collected in the Brazilian Semi-arid Region between 2018 and 2021 and analyzed using immunochromatographic strips. The tests revealed 34% of samples with presence of GM proteins. It is concluded that the biosafety standards in force in Brazil do not allow the assurance of on-Farm conservation of maize. The sectors that contribute to agrobiodiversity conservation and do not benefit from using GM seeds are taking on the burden of this process. Transgene flow can be reduced by approving and enforcing more effective coexistence rules that consider maize landraces crop areas also as seed-producing areas added to full disclosure of commercial seeds origin. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Potential Unintended Effects of Genetic Technologies in Plants)
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Article
Proteomic Profile of Glyphosate-Resistant Soybean under Combined Herbicide and Drought Stress Conditions
Plants 2021, 10(11), 2381; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants10112381 - 05 Nov 2021
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Abstract
While some genetically modified (GM) plants have been targeted to confer tolerance to abiotic stressors, transgenes are impacted by abiotic stressors, causing adverse effects on plant physiology and yield. However, routine safety analyses do not assess the response of GM plants under different [...] Read more.
While some genetically modified (GM) plants have been targeted to confer tolerance to abiotic stressors, transgenes are impacted by abiotic stressors, causing adverse effects on plant physiology and yield. However, routine safety analyses do not assess the response of GM plants under different environmental stress conditions. In the context of climate change, the combination of abiotic stressors is a reality in agroecosystems. Therefore, the aim of this study was to analyze the metabolic cost by assessing the proteomic profiles of GM soybean varieties under glyphosate spraying and water deficit conditions compared to their non-transgenic conventional counterparts. We found evidence of cumulative adverse effects that resulted in the reduction of enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism, along with the expression of amino acids and nitrogen metabolic enzymes. Ribosomal metabolism was significantly enriched, particularly the protein families associated with ribosomal complexes L5 and L18. The interaction network map showed that the affected module representing the ribosome pathway interacts strongly with other important proteins, such as the chloro-plastic gamma ATP synthase subunit. Combined, these findings provide clear evidence for increasing the metabolic costs of GM soybean plants in response to the accumulation of stress factors. First, alterations in the ribosome pathway indicate that the GM plant itself carries a metabolic burden associated with the biosynthesis of proteins as effects of genetic transformation. GM plants also showed an imbalance in energy demand and production under controlled conditions, which was increased under drought conditions. Identifying the consequences of altered metabolism related to the interaction between plant transgene stress responses allows us to understand the possible effects on the ecology and evolution of plants in the medium and long term and the potential interactions with other organisms when these organisms are released in the environment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Potential Unintended Effects of Genetic Technologies in Plants)
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Review

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Review
Deficiencies in the Risk Assessment of Genetically Engineered Bt Cowpea Approved for Cultivation in Nigeria: A Critical Review
Plants 2022, 11(3), 380; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11030380 - 29 Jan 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1686
Abstract
We analyze the application filed for the marketing and cultivation of genetically engineered Bt cowpea (event AAT 709A) approved in Nigeria in 2019. Cowpea (Vigna ungiguiculata) is extensively grown throughout sub-Saharan Africa and consumed by around two hundred million people. The [...] Read more.
We analyze the application filed for the marketing and cultivation of genetically engineered Bt cowpea (event AAT 709A) approved in Nigeria in 2019. Cowpea (Vigna ungiguiculata) is extensively grown throughout sub-Saharan Africa and consumed by around two hundred million people. The transgenic plants produce an insecticidal, recombinant Bt toxin meant to protect the plants against the larvae of Maruca vitrata, which feed on the plants and are also known as pod borer. Our analysis of the application reveals issues of concern regarding the safety of the Bt toxins produced in the plants. These concerns include stability of gene expression, impact on soil organisms, effects on non-target species and food safety. In addition, we show deficiencies in the risk assessment of potential gene flow and uncontrolled spread of the transgenes and cultivated varieties as well as the maintenance of seed collections. As far as information is publicly available, we analyze the application by referring to established standards of GMO risk assessment. We take the provisions of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) into account, of which both Nigeria and the EU are parties. We also refer to the EU standards for GMO risk assessment, which are complementary to the provisions of the CPB. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Potential Unintended Effects of Genetic Technologies in Plants)
Review
The Generic Risks and the Potential of SDN-1 Applications in Crop Plants
Plants 2021, 10(11), 2259; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants10112259 - 22 Oct 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1189
Abstract
The use of site-directed nucleases (SDNs) in crop plants to alter market-oriented traits is expanding rapidly. At the same time, there is an on-going debate around the safety and regulation of crops altered with the site-directed nuclease 1 (SDN-1) technology. SDN-1 applications can [...] Read more.
The use of site-directed nucleases (SDNs) in crop plants to alter market-oriented traits is expanding rapidly. At the same time, there is an on-going debate around the safety and regulation of crops altered with the site-directed nuclease 1 (SDN-1) technology. SDN-1 applications can be used to induce a variety of genetic alterations ranging from fairly ‘simple’ genetic alterations to complex changes in plant genomes using, for example, multiplexing approaches. The resulting plants can contain modified alleles and associated traits, which are either known or unknown in conventionally bred plants. The European Commission recently published a study on new genomic techniques suggesting an adaption of the current GMO legislation by emphasizing that targeted mutagenesis techniques can produce genomic alterations that can also be obtained by natural mutations or conventional breeding techniques. This review highlights the need for a case-specific risk assessment of crop plants derived from SDN-1 applications considering both the characteristics of the product and the process to ensure a high level of protection of human and animal health and the environment. The published literature on so-called market-oriented traits in crop plants altered with SDN-1 applications is analyzed here to determine the types of SDN-1 application in plants, and to reflect upon the complexity and the naturalness of such products. Furthermore, it demonstrates the potential of SDN-1 applications to induce complex alterations in plant genomes that are relevant to generic SDN-associated risks. In summary, it was found that nearly half of plants with so-called market-oriented traits contain complex genomic alterations induced by SDN-1 applications, which may also pose new types of risks. It further underscores the need for data on both the process and the end-product for a case-by-case risk assessment of plants derived from SDN-1 applications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Potential Unintended Effects of Genetic Technologies in Plants)
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