Simulating evolutionary responses of an introgressed insect resistance trait for ecological effect assessment of transgene flow: a model for supporting informed decision-making in environmental risk assessment

Ecol Evol. 2013 Feb;3(2):416-23. doi: 10.1002/ece3.463. Epub 2013 Jan 17.


Predicting outcomes of transgene flow from arable crops requires a system perspective that considers ecological and evolutionary processes within a landscape context. In Europe, the arable weed Raphanus raphanistrum is a potential hybridization partner of oilseed rape, and the two species are ecologically linked through the common herbivores Meligethes spp. Observations in Switzerland show that high densities of Meligethes beetles maintained by oilseed rape crops can lead to considerable damage on R. raphanistrum. We asked how increased insect resistance in R. raphanistrum - as might be acquired through introgression from transgenic oilseed rape - would affect seed production under natural herbivore pressure. In simulation experiments, plants protected against Meligethes beetles produced about twice as many seeds as unprotected plants. All stages in the development of reproductive structures from buds to pods were negatively affected by the herbivore, with the transition from buds to flowers being the most vulnerable. We conclude that resistance to Meligethes beetles could confer a considerable selective advantage upon R. raphanistrum in regions where oilseed rape is widely grown.

Keywords: Apparent competition; Meligethes beetles; Raphanus raphanistrum; crop–wild gene flow; oilseed rape; transgenic plants.