Gene flow is the most frequently expressed public concern related to the deregulation of transgenic events (Snow 2002; Ellstrand 2003). However, assessing the potential for transgene escape is complex because it depends on the opportunities for unintended gene flow, and establishment and persistence of the transgene in the environment (Warwick et al. 2008). Creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera L.), a turfgrass species widely used on golf courses, has been genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate, a nonselective herbicide. Outcrossing species, such as creeping bentgrass (CB), which have several compatible species, have greater chances for gene escape and spontaneous hybridization (i.e. natural, unassisted sexual reproduction between taxa in the field), which challenges transgene containment. Several authors have emphasized the need for evidence of spontaneous hybridization to infer the potential for gene flow (Armstrong et al. 2005). Here we report that a transgenic intergeneric hybrid has been produced as result of spontaneous hybridization of a feral-regulated transgenic pollen receptor (CB) and a nontransgenic pollen donor (rabbitfoot grass, RF, Polypogon monspeliensis (L.) Desf.). We identified an off-type transgenic seedling and confirmed it to be CB × RF intergeneric hybrid. This first report of a transgenic intergeneric hybrid produced in situ with a regulated transgenic event demonstrates the importance of considering all possible avenues for transgene spread at the landscape level before planting a regulated transgenic crop in the field. Spontaneous hybridization adds a level of complexity to transgene monitoring, containment, mitigation and remediation programmes.
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.