Monitoring the spread of recombinant DNA from field plots with transgenic sugar beet plants by PCR and natural transformation of Pseudomonas stutzeri

Transgenic Res. 2003 Jun;12(3):293-304. doi: 10.1023/a:1023317104119.


Previous studies had shown that recombinant DNA can be detected for several months in soil after the deposition of litter from transgenic (tg) plants. Here we show by PCR monitoring of field releases of tg sugar beet plants that during the growth of the plants the soil close to the plants and also plant material contains recombinant DNA, in the form of extracellular molecules. Surprisingly, the monitoring also revealed the presence of tg DNA in many field plots (30-70%) in which tg plants were never grown. These studies and the further monitoring during other tg sugar beet release experiments by PCR and a novel bioassay (measuring the transforming potential of recombinant DNA for Pseudomonas stutzeri) indicated that recombinant DNA was only detectable in the surface soil of field plots and their vicinity where flowering of the tg beet plants was allowed. Recombinant DNA was found in soil at a distance of 50 m from pollen-producing plants surrounded by a strip with hemp plants as a containment regime. It is concluded that recombinant DNA is deposited in soil during the growth of tg sugar beets and that a major mechanism of recombinant DNA spread in the environment is the dispersal of pollen which allows recombinant DNA to persist in the field plot for at least a year.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Beta vulgaris / genetics*
  • Crops, Agricultural
  • DNA, Recombinant / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Environmental Monitoring / standards
  • Plants, Genetically Modified*
  • Pollen
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / standards
  • Pseudomonas stutzeri / genetics
  • Soil / analysis
  • Transformation, Genetic


  • DNA, Recombinant
  • Soil